Fresh doubts raised over £300m biomass plan for waterfront
CONTROVERSIAL plans for a £300 million "green energy" plant in the heart of Edinburgh's waterfront have been called into fresh doubt by environmental and heritage campaigners.
Major new concerns have emerged over the potential impact of shipping wood chip into the port of Leith from the likes of Scandinavia, the United States and Canada.
Highly-critical letters from the WWF and the Cockburn Association passed to The Scotsman also highlight serious doubts over the suitability of the 300 million plant for the heart of Leith's docklands – which is hoped to meet most of Edinburgh's energy needs in future.
WWF director Dr Richard Dixon has warned the Scottish Government that the proposed development risks causing environmental damage because of concerns over where the fuel is being sourced from.
The Cockburn claims the proposed plant – which will feature a 100-metre tall chimney – would "jeopardise" an entire masterplan for Leith's docklands and damage classic views of the city's skyline.
Biomass stations generate electricity by burning organic materials and are classed as renewable energy. Much of the fuel used comes from byproducts of the forestry industry.
It is claimed the Leith facility will use around 1.3 million tonnes per year of biomass fuel to generate up to 200 megawatts of electricity, but Forth Energy – the joint venture behind the proposed plant, as well as three other similar schemes in Dundee, Rosyth and Grangemouth – has admitted much of its fuel will come from overseas.
Timber which is turned into wood chip before being transported is sourced from overseas because Scotland does not currently have enough sustainable forests to meet the demand.
The Confederation of Forest Industries warned last month that plans for a network of biomass plants risked damaging the environment and could actually cost thousands of jobs.
Now environmental campaign group WWF is warning extensive research is needed before plants like the one in Leith are approved.
Dr Dixon said: "Although biofuels are a renewable source of energy, depending on where and how they are produced, their carbon payback can be very lengthy and, if particularly badly sourced, may result in a net increase in emissions.
"This is especially true if the biomass is sourced from forest or peat soils that are cleared to make way for production."
Marion Williams, director of the Cockburn Association, said
the proposed plant would "severely affect" agreed masterplans for the docks area, including the proposed tram network, planned schools, parks and shops.
She added: "We are also concerned by the potential visual impact a 100-metre high waste chimney and its potential smoke plume would have on the city's skyline."
However, a spokeswoman for Forth Energy insisted biomass had a "vital role" to play in the future mix of renewable energy sources.
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