Powering up for energy plant battle
THE boss of a firm hoping to build four controversial wood-burning power plants in Scotland has hit back at his critics - as he revealed the first planning application would be lodged next month.
• An artist's impression shows the proposed power plant at King George V Dock in Dundee. A planning application is to be lodged next month. Picture: Complimentary
Calum Wilson, managing director of Forth Energy, told The Scotsman he believed the giant biomass plants would be a key part of Scotland's future energy mix by providing clean, baseload power to back up renewables.
The company, a partnership between Forth Ports and Scottish and Southern Energy, plans to spend 1.7 billion building plants at ports in Edinburgh, Dundee, Rosyth and Grangemouth that generate both power and heat.
If granted permission, the power stations, which would be fuelled by millions of tonnes of imported wood chip each year, would be the first large-scale biomass plants in Scotland.
The plans have attracted considerable opposition, but in an interview with The Scotsman Mr Wilson attempted to allay concerns. He argued that, although they were not as green as wind turbines, they could help fill the need for a clean, baseload power supply.
"If you look at the energy mix in Scotland, wind is intermittent, and there are coal-fired stations that need to come off line or use carbon capture and storage," he said.
"We think there is a place for 500 megawatts of baseload, low-carbon energy in Scotland, given the policy on (no new] nuclear."
He rejected criticism by environment groups such as Friends of the Earth Scotland that there would not be enough wood to provide a sustainable supply.
A study for the Confederation of Forest Industries showed there were so many biomass plants in the planning system that, within 15 years, the UK would need 27 million tonnes of fuel - the equivalent of the amount currently in world trade.
However, Mr Wilson said he already knew of suppliers in the United States that could provide fuel for the plants for the next ten years. "Our view is that there's a biomass supply chain to support our plants. There are suppliers in America who have told me they could supply our plants for ten years," he said.
Mr Turner said he could understand the fears of residents over the impact of the plants, but he insisted there would be no "visual plume of black smoke" from the chimneys.
"They are big developments and they will have an impact on the community. But they are not a Cockenzie or a Longannet," he said.
Other criticism has come from the Wood Panel Industries Federation, which argued up to 8,700 UK jobs could be under threat due to biomass plants out-competing for raw materials.
However, Mr Wilson said his company planned to build its plants at ports, so they could use wood from overseas rather than Scottish forests.
"There's a nervousness that we will grab all the biomass," he said. "That's not my intention. We have no intention to destabilise timber industry supply. I believe we can all co-exist."
A planning application for the Dundee plant, at King George V Dock, is to be lodged early next month. If built, it will produce 100MW of electricity - more than 80 per cent of Dundee's needs - and 30MW of heat, which would power about 30 hotels. Applications for the others - at Carron Dock, Grangemouth; Dundas Road, Rosyth; and Imperial Dock, Leith - will be submitted in September and October. The Leith plant would provide more than half of Edinburgh's electricity needs.
The earliest the first plant could be built is 2015.
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Saturday 25 May 2013
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