QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS ABOUT THE RES PROPOSED NORTH BLYTH BIOMASS POWER STATION
What is RES proposing?
How much electricity will it generate?
Why did you choose the Port of Blyth site?
What is biomass?
Why is it environmentally-friendly?
How much CO2 will it save?
What emissions will there be from the project?
Will burning biomass lead to a lot of smoke?
What kind of fuel will be burned and where will it come from?
Is the fuel from sustainable sources?
What about CO2 emissions from transporting the fuel?
Will this be a Combined Heat and Power (CHP) project?
What level of local traffic will there be from the fuel deliveries and during construction and how can this be minimised?
What is the physical size of the project?
Will the project be noisy?
Will there be any impact on wildlife?
How many jobs will the development create?
Will there be jobs for local people?
How will the project contribute to renewable energy development in Northumberland?
How will it contribute to regeneration in the area?
How many biomass fueled power stations are in operation?
Who is RES?
What is the timescale for the project?
How can local people be involved in the process?
HOW MUCH ELECTRICITY WILL IT GENERATE?
The biomass project has the capacity to generate 750GWh of renewable electricity a year - which is equivalent to the average annual electricity consumption of over 170,000 households or more than enough to power all the homes in Northumberland.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THE PORT OF BLYTH SITE?
The proposed site is within the Port of Blyth; at Battleship Wharf; adjacent to a quay which has excellent dry bulk materials handling capability and offers access by rail, road and sea. In addition, Blyth is becoming a centre of excellence for renewable energy with a strongly skilled employment base and is a great place for potential employees to work and live.
WHAT IS BIOMASS?
Biomass is a recognised source of clean, renewable energy for heat and power generation. It refers to recently-grown biological material such as trees, grasses and crops that can be used as a low-carbon fuel and come from a variety of sustainable sources including forestry residues, sawmill co-products, recovered wood and dedicated energy crops. Biomass power generation uses a fuel that is natural and abundant and provides secure and reliable power through the use of tried-and-tested technology.
WHY IS IT ENVIRONMENTALLY-FRIENDLY?
Sustainably-sourced biomass is environmentally friendly because it is a renewable fuel that is low in carbon and offsets the need for fossil fuels that contribute to global climate change.
As biomass grows, it absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere via the process of photosynthesis. This carbon is then returned to the atmosphere when the fuel is burned in the power plant. As long as re-growth or replanting takes place, the cycle is closed and no net carbon dioxide (CO2) (the main greenhouse gas) is emitted at source. As photosynthesis is powered by the sun, biomass is essentially stored solar energy.
HOW MUCH CO2 WILL IT SAVE?
Generating electricity from biomass at the power plant will cut emissions of CO2, by approximately 300,000 tonnes annually as compared with the average carbon emission of grid electricity in the UK. This is because sustainably sourced biomass will absorb an equal amount of CO2 during its growing cycle as is released when it is combusted for power generation. The figure includes the amount of CO2 generated in the processing and shipping of biomass.
WHAT EMISSIONS WILL THERE BE FROM THE PROJECT?
Like any other combustion process, exhaust gases will be produced. However, such exhaust gases will be carefully controlled and the project will meet the latest and toughest government guidelines and use the best available pollution control technologies.
The exhaust gases that are produced will go through comprehensive filtration systems in order to minimise emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulphur oxides (SOx), and small particulates. As part of the planning and permitting process, the project will apply for an operating licence from the Environment Agency (EA). The licence will only be granted if the project meets the strict standards set by the EA. The EA will continue to monitor and regulate emissions during the lifetime of the project.
As a part of our Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) we have recently undertaken air quality studies which have helped us to assess any impacts arising from airborne emissions. This includes any airborne pollutants, dust and road traffic emissions on nearby residential properties and sensitive habitats. The result of the studies demonstrates that the facility will not exceed accepted Environmental Quality Standards (EQS), and the highest emissions are still only 10% of the EQS. Even when the existing background levels are added to the facility emissions, the EQS are not exceeded.
The (EIA) shows no significant adverse effects on air quality arising from the facility. The emissions will continue to be monitored when the facility is operational and will be regulated by the Environment Agency. Dust and Suppression measures will also be put forward.
WILL BURNING BIOMASS LEAD TO A LOT OF SMOKE?
No. This plant will be burning a natural, renewable fuel (e.g. wood-based biomass) that must meet tough Environment Agency guidelines for emissions, so extensive filtering will be done on any gases released through the chimney.
WHAT KIND OF FUEL WILL BE BURNED AND WHERE WILL IT COME FROM?
The plant will use wood-based biomass fuels that come in the form of wood chip, pellet or briquette. These may be produced from sustainably-sourced domestic or imported forestry material, dedicated energy crops or non-recyclable waste wood. Non-recyclable waste wood will be drawn from sources that may otherwise be landfilled. We will also be looking to use UK-sourced forestry material that is appropriate for this type of project. All fuels used in the plant will meet the definition of "biomass" under article 4 of the Renewables Obligation Order 2009 .
 4.1.(a) In this Order, "biomass" means fuel used in a generating station where- at least 90 per cent of its energy content is derived from relevant material (that is to say, material which is, or is derived directly or indirectly from, plant matter, animal matter, fungi or algae) http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2009/785/article/4/made
IS THE FUEL FROM SUSTAINABLE SOURCES?
RES intends that only fuel from sustainable sources is used. To ensure this, RES has proposed a planning requirement to be included within the draft Development Consent Order (DCO) for submission and approval by the IPC. Under national legislation, power stations using biomass fuel will be required to meet sustainability standards in order to receive financial support. By including the planning requirement within the draft DCO, the North Blyth Biomass Project will need to meet the sustainability criteria whether it is receiving financial support or not. This ensures that the power station will combust sustainably sourced biomass fuel throughout its operational life.
The operators of the power station will be required to provide an annual report to the local planning authority on the sustainability of the biomass fuel used at the plant. The report will provide the same information, level of assurance and verification which is required under the national mandatory UK sustainability criteria for solid biomass fuels. Biomass fuels must meet two sustainability criteria:
- The first puts restrictions on the type of land where the biomass fuels can be sourced or grown. Biomass fuels cannot be sourced from land that has a particular ecological or carbon value such as primary forest, land designated for nature protection purposes and peatland.
- The second relates to carbon emissions associated with cultivating, harvesting and transporting the fuel to the power station and converting it into electricity and imposes a maximum carbon limit per unit of electricity generated by biomass.
WHAT ABOUT CO2 EMISSIONS FROM TRANSPORTING THE FUEL?
Whilst transportation contributes to the overall "carbon footprint" of a fuel, transporting biomass fuel by ship is remarkably efficient and the project will still deliver large carbon savings. Calculations based on a 2006 report on biomass co-firing for the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), show that the carbon dioxide emitted from transporting biomass fuel only reduces the overall carbon savings of a biomass project by 3%. This was based on biomass being shipped from eastern Canada and the project was compared with a coal-fired plant. The impact on carbon savings will be less when transporting biomass over a shorter distance i.e. from Europe.
For the purpose of calculating how much CO2 the North Blyth project will displace, we have taken a very conservative approach of assuming that all of the fuel for the project is imported woodchip that is delivered to site using large ocean going vessels from sources that are over 8,000km away. In reality, and given the strong commercial incentive to minimise shipping distances, the fuel supply to the project is much more likely to be a mix of UK sourced fuel, some fuel sourced from within Europe (within, say, 2000km) and other fuel that is sourced from elsewhere (for example, the eastern seaboard of North America would have an estimated shipping distance of approximately 5,000-6,000km). This more realistic scenario would have a lower greenhouse gas impact than that presented here.
WILL THIS BE A COMBINED HEAT AND POWER (CHP) PROJECT?
We are keen to maximise the overall efficiency of our North
Blyth Biomass Project, and recognise that the use of heat, as well
as the generation of renewable electricity, will help us achieve
We are actively exploring ways to use the heat generated from the project in nearby domestic or industrial applications, and will design the process plant to be able to provide heat to such users wherever practicable. A study has been conducted (which formed part of our application to the Planning Inspectorate) which examined the opportunities for district heating in the Blyth Estuary area, but unfortunately at this stage it is not seen as a viable option. RES also contributed and participated in a further district heating study with Northumberland County Council and other key stakeholders in the area. The study came to a similar conclusion.
RES propose to continue exploring the CHP opportunities in the Blyth Estuary area by the inclusion of a requirement in the draft DCO to update the CHP study every 5 years for the lifetime of the project.
WHAT LEVEL OF LOCAL TRAFFIC WILL THERE BE FROM THE FUEL DELIVERIES AND DURING CONSTRUCTION AND HOW CAN THIS BE MINIMISED?
The site is located next to the River Blyth and also has a rail head, thus offering easy access by sea, rail and road. However, most of the fuel will be delivered by ship and unloaded directly at the Port. With the energy then leaving the plant through electric wires, the traffic impact is very low compared to other potential uses of the site. The plant and project layout are being designed to create a smooth flow of entry and exit of vehicles. There will also be the normal traffic of employees coming to work. During the 2-year construction period there will be an increase in traffic of varying amounts to the site. RES is currently working with the Council and Highways Agency to put together a detailed traffic management plan for the construction phase in order to minimise congestion and inconvenience for local residents.
Although it is anticipated that 80% of the fuel will arrive by ship, a full transport impact assessment has been carried out based upon 100% of the fuel arriving by road (138 HGV deliveries per day - an absolute worst case). The assessment covers both construction and operational phases of the development considering existing traffic volumes, traffic generated by the facility and recent accident information. The assessment also considers congestion driver delay, severance, impact upon pedestrians and road safety. The assessment predicts short term increases of traffic of 39% during construction and 34% during operation.
WHAT IS THE PHYSICAL SIZE OF THE PROJECT?
The project area is approximately 5 hectares. The development will consist of a group of fuel storage buildings which will be up to 25m high. These may look like many other buildings at the Port and will avoid the need for open storage of material. The tallest building will be the boiler house, which may be up to around 65m high.
The tallest overall structure will be the chimney, which will be designed in accordance with environmental standards. The height will be determined by the Environment Agency as part of the planning and permitting process and is likely to be approximately 105m to ensure compliance with air quality standards.
The layout of the power station has been carefully considered to minimise visual intrusion where possible, in particular with regard to close range views from residential areas. We have produced an interactive map which links to photomontages that show what the project will look like from various points agreed by Northumberland County Council.
We have consulted the local community, organisations and statutory consultees on the design of the power station and have sought their feedback on a number of architectural options. The final design has been guided by the comments we have received.
WILL THE PROJECT BE NOISY?
An assessment of noise and vibration has been carried out including both the construction and operational phases of the development. Specialist computer modelling has been used to calculate noise levels at nearby residential properties and background noise levels have been fed into the model to represent the existing noise environment on the site. The potential increase in noise levels at representative properties has been assessed to be insignificant. Noise reduction measures have been proposed as part of the assessment.
The project will be designed to meet national and international noise regulation limits and RES has designed the plant so that the noisiest parts are shielded from neighbours as much as possible. The project will most likely bring a noise reduction compared to the current uses at the site.
WILL THERE BE ANY IMPACT ON WILDLIFE?
Detailed studies of the potential impact of the project on the ecology, flora and fauna of the area has been carried out by independent experts as part of the Environmental Impact Assessment to ensure measures are put in place to minimise any impacts.
Studies involved examining both aquatic ecology (marine life) and terrestrial ecology (land based animals and plants).A Habitat survey of the area as well as desk studies and field surveys have been carried out for reptiles and butterflies, which show that there are common lizards and grayling butterflies on some part of the development site. Areas will be enhanced and managed specifically to encourage these.
A benthic (seabed) survey of the cooling water inlet/outfall area has been undertaken and we have considered the potential ecological impacts during construction and operational impacts such as the abstraction of cooling water from the estuary and subsequent discharge to the sea. From this we will incorporate a number of protection measures, such as fish screens on the cooling water intake to prevent fish entrapment.
Ornithological (bird surveys) on the development site show limited interest on the site itself. However the effect the project may have on birds off the project site have been identified and mitigation measures to reduce any impacts have been secured through the draft Development Consent Order (DCO).
HOW MANY JOBS WILL THE DEVELOPMENT CREATE?
The project will create green collar jobs for South East Northumberland, providing opportunities for local contractors during the construction phase and permanent jobs for engineers and other disciplines during operation
During construction, the number of workers will vary depending on the stage of work with approximately 200 to 300 workers involved at the peak.
Once operational, we estimate that the plant will directly employ around 50 with career opportunities across a range of skills. A similar number will be employed in activities directly related to the operation (such as port offloading, direct services, etc).
These numbers don't include the businesses and industries in the wider community which will be supported throughout the project's life. Such businesses include local fuel suppliers, haulage companies, services, hotels during construction, housing for employees, etc. In addition, materials handling at the Port of Blyth will provide further employment opportunities and provide income for the Port.
WILL THERE BE JOBS FOR LOCAL PEOPLE?
Yes. It is RES's policy to use local firms where practical during the construction phase and local employment and career development are secured through the Workforce Development Strategy detailed in the draft Development Consent Order (DCO). Part of what makes Blyth and South East Northumberland attractive is its talent pool of skilled labour.
HOW WILL THE PROJECT CONTRIBUTE TO RENEWABLE ENERGY DEVELOPMENT IN NORTHUMBERLAND?
In the North East's Regional Renewable Energy Strategy of 2005, a goal was set to achieve 10% of regional electricity consumption from renewables by 2010 and 20% by 2020, reflecting the Government's national target at the time. Northumberland's share of this equated to 659GWh of electricity per annum by 2010 and the North Blyth Biomass Project, if built today, would more than meet this.
Of course, the 2010 targets will soon be out of date and the UK
is now working to a national goal of around 30-35% of renewable
electricity by 2020. It is unclear how this will be broken down at
regional local levels but the North East is well-placed to reap the
economic as well as the environmental benefits of the growth in
renewable energy. By 2020 over 30% of the North East's electricity
requirements could be met by reliable and clean renewable energy
technologies. In South East Northumberland a number of private and
public sector initiatives are underway that
together will drive the growth in the low-carbon economy and bring secure jobs to the region.
HOW WILL IT CONTRIBUTE TO REGENERATION IN THE AREA?
It will create opportunities for new and existing industries in the supply chain and contribute to the growth of South East Northumberland as a hub for renewable energy technology and innovation. Further, it will bring more work into the Port (as it will use it for the transport of fuel), helping to support jobs and growth in this key part of the community and secure the Port's economic future.
Being situated within the Blyth Estuary, RES is keen to be associated with the Blyth Estuary Renewable Energy Zone (BEREZ) and support the development of other renewable energy related projects within the area.
HOW MANY BIOMASS FUELED POWER STATIONS ARE IN OPERATION?
Wood-fuelled biomass power generation is a mature technology with plants operating that are now more than 20 years old. There are dozens of similar plants currently in operation and many more planned throughout the world, particularly in Western Europe and North America. There are currently two similar large-scale wood-derived biomass power stations operating in the UK, with at least 10 more at various stages of planning.
WHO IS RES?
RES is one of the world's leading independent renewable energy project developers. As a respected British company with over 30 years of experience of planning, building and operating renewable energy projects, RES has been at the forefront of wind energy development since the 1970s and has developed and/or built nearly 7GW of wind energy capacity worldwide. This includes projects in the UK, Ireland, France, Scandinavia, and the United States, with a large additional portfolio currently in development.
The RES Group is active in a range of renewable energy technologies, including onshore and offshore wind projects, large-scale solar and biomass and on-site heat, power and cooling technologies, as well as offering design consultancy for sustainable built environments.
Drawing on decades of experience in the renewable energy and construction industries, RES has the expertise to develop, construct and operate projects of outstanding quality. RES is committed to finding effective and appropriate ways of consulting with all its stakeholders, including local residents and businesses, and believes that the views of local people are an integral part of the development process.
RES is also committed to developing long term relationships with the communities around its projects, proactively seeking ways in which it can support and encourage community involvement in social and environmental projects near its developments. For more information about RES, visit www.res-group.com.
RES has offices across the UK and worldwide, including an office in Gateshead from which we are expanding our operations in the North East. RES is keen to draw on the skilled workforce of the region and contribute to its growing reputation as a leader in renewable energy.
WHAT IS THE TIMESCALE FOR THE PROJECT?
We submitted our planning application on 15th March 2012 and expect a decision in the summer of 2013. Should the project be consented, construction is expected to commence in early 2014 and the plant would be fully operational by 2016/2017.
HOW CAN LOCAL PEOPLE BE INVOLVED IN THE PROCESS?
We are keen to work closely with the local community and have been consulting widely with local residents, organisations and statutory consultees as part of the development process.
All our projects go through extensive community consultation to ensure that they bring benefits to local people and businesses and we are proud of the positive relationship we enjoy with the public as a result.
More details about our consultation process are available here.
A Community Liaison Group (CLG), has been established to improve communications between RES and local communities during the development of the proposed biomass power station. The Group is made up of representatives from the local communities around the proposed power station site and meets every 3-6 months to discuss any matters relating to the project. Please click here for more information.
We are keen to hear people's views about any aspect of the project. If you have any questions or would like more information please feel free to contact us on freephone 0800 032 0420 or at email@example.com.