Power play as biomass plan gets approval

A £250m renewable energy power station in the north east of England has moved closer to reality with The Planning Inspectorate’s confirmation of formal acceptance of the application for a development consent order.
Renewable energy developer RES submitted proposals in March to develop the station on a brownfield site at the Port of Blyth, regenerating a tract of under-used open storage land at Battleship Wharf. The facility will use biomass in the form of woodchip, pellets or briquettes from sustainable sources such as managed forests and by-products of timber manufacture. The majority of the wood fuel will be delivered to the site by ship.
If it gets the green light, the station will have capacity to generate up to 750GWh and contribute to the north east’s goal of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 2020.
RES project manager Chris Lawson said: “Acceptance of our application is a major milestone and we are looking forward to participating in the next phase of consultation and providing any further information that the Planning Inspectorate may require.
“There is still some way to go before our plans can become a reality but we have been greatly encouraged by the support we have received so far from local people and organisations who can see the opportunities that the proposed development represents.”
Northumberland County Council and the Port of Blyth aim to attract similar companies by setting up the Blyth Estuary Renewable Energy Zone (BEREZ). The zone is home to the UK’s National Renewable Energy Centre (Narec) and includes industry and business park facilities on north and south banks of the River Blyth Estuary. The council and port also co-operated to establish an renewable energy festival.
Martin Lawlor, chief executive of the Port of Blyth, explained: “The natural deep water harbour is what attracted people to settle here in the first place and over time we have improved the port and developed a skills base which most recently has been based on heavy engineering and traditional energy generation such as coal. We’re really proud of this heritage, but we also have to move with the times and capitalise on our strengths. Renewable energy generation is a prime example of the sort of business we need to encourage in order to replace declining industry sectors, create jobs and secure a long term future for the communities that rely on the port for employment.”
RES estimates its power station will employ 150 people on average during the two-year construction, rising to 300 people on site at peak times.
The original application was made to the Infrastructure Planning Commission whose roles and responsibilities passed to the Planning Inspectorate on April 1. The transfer does not affect the way in which the application for a Development Consent Order will be assessed.
At the end of the determination period, a final recommendation will be made by the Planning Inspectorate.