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Converting from coal-fired to biomass?

Posted in Opinion by Kate Archdeacon on August 13th, 2010

Source: guardian.co.uk


Image: thewritingzone via flickr CC

From UK’s largest coal-fired power plant could switch to biomass within 10 years by Tim Webb:

Drax, Britain’s largest emitter of carbon dioxide, could stop burning coal by the end of the decade. Finance director Tony Quinlan said the company was looking to convert all six units of the coal-fired power station so they only burn biomass, such as wood chip, within the next 10 years. “Drax is a viable business today as a coal plant,” he told the Guardian. “But the opportunity to turn it into a renewable power company is an exciting one and makes sense for the UK’s carbon targets and for our shareholders.”

The company will only go ahead if the government agrees to grant renewable subsidies to such converted coal plants. Currently only purpose-built biomass plants receive extra payouts to cover their higher costs. Drax hopes to convert the first unit – capable of generating 660MW of electricity – next year. It is thought that no coal plant of this size has been converted anywhere in the world. “It has not been done before because there hasn’t been the need,” Quinlan said.

[…]

Some environmentalists question how sustainable biomass can be – because growing energy crops can result in rainforests being destroyed or can compete for land with food production. Greenpeace energy campaigner Joss Garman said: “There’s a serious question about whether it’s sensible to use biomass in this way. While sustainable biomass is possible, the precious supplies available should be used in much smarter ways.”

Drax has biomass supply contracts in place but refuses to divulge where the material will come from, citing commercial confidentiality. Material such as wood chip pellets will be imported from North America and Africa, while UK-sourced biomass like tree stumps and corn stubble will also be used. Drax insists that all of it will be sustainably sourced.

Read the full article by Tim Webb.

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