7 November 1997

Wood burner ready

for fire-up…

ENGINEERING contracts have been signed for the construction of the countrys first big wood-burning electricity generating plant at Eggborough, near Selby, Yorks.

Work is due to start soon and electricity generation is expected to begin in autumn 1999.

Project ARBRE (Arable Biomass Renewable Energy) will be fuelled initially by forestry residues, until short-rotation coppice matures and becomes available in increasing quantities.

Longer term, it is planned that SRC will provide at least half of the fuel needs of the £20m plant. It will produce 10mW of electricity, enough to provide power for 18,000 homes, says Keith Pitcher, development manager of Yorkshire Water Projects, one of a consortium of four companies involved in financing the ARBRE venture.

Yorkshire farmers within 40 miles of the site are being invited to devote 2000ha (5000 acres) of set-aside and arable land to short-rotation willow coppice. As yet there has been no rush to take up the offer, but pressure on cereals economics may trigger a switch of less productive land into coppice production, he believes.

So far 136ha (336 acres) have been planted and a further 100ha (247 acres) is targeted for next spring.

Mr Pitcher believes demonstrating stands of coppice willow and the crops economics will encourage other growers to switch small areas of their land into coppicing.

The decision go ahead with the plant will break a chicken-and-egg cycle in which farmers wanted to see the generator up and running before committing themselves to the crop, but ARBRE needed to ensure a ready supply of wood fuel before committing millions of pounds to the project.

"The plant will give potential growers the market they need to grow energy crops and we hope strong farmer interest will follow," says Mr Pitcher.

That could give the industry the fillip it needs, predicts Kevin Bond, chief executive of Yorkshire Water. "Then we can scale up production, either in megawatts or in the numbers of generating plants."

An artists impression shows the straw burning plant will have little visual impact, says ARBREs development manager Keith Pitcher.

EGGBOROUGH AIMS

&#8226 To demonstrate gasification and combustion technology.

&#8226 Create fuel supply chain.

&#8226 Educate farmers, advisers and the community about SRC issues.

&#8226 To monitor performance of project.