ESD Biomass will supply 30,000 tonnes of coppiced willow branches annually through its ‘Power Plant Contract’ – designed to secure specifically grown crops for power generation. These will be used as a fuel feedstock alongside coal in Didcot’s power station.

The ‘Power Plant Contracts’ will be issued to ensure the supply of at least 30,000 tonnes per year of short rotation coppice, a figure requiring the cultivation of approximately 3,000 hectares of land.

Biomass is defined as material containing more than 98% organic matter and is increasingly being trialled and fired in existing oil and coal-fired power stations.

Both firms agreed the deal represents a major boost for the biomass sector.

Neil Bryson, Chairman of ESD Biomass said: “The long term agreement with RWE npower for the use of energy crops in existing UK power generation capacity is a logical and timely step for the emerging biomass industry. It is economically efficient to use existing coal-fired capacity in this way rather than building dedicated facilities now and helps to establish the fuel supply infrastructure for the future.”

Kevin McCullough, director of npower renewables, said: “By March 2009, generators will have to make sure that an increasing proportion of the biomass they use comes from purposely grown energy crops including willow. ESD Biomass will negotiate with farmers on our behalf to establish an energy crop base. It takes four years to develop willow or wood for coppicing so there has to be sufficient demand and a secure market for energy crops in order to promote investment from farmers.”

It is estimated that the UK power sector could create demand for as much as 10 million tonnes of willow per year by 2020. This would lead to a net reduction in CO2 emissions through power generation of up to 10 million tonnes per year.

By David Hopkins

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