Liverpool chosen for £300m biomass project

A £300m biomass facility has been targeted to be built in a dock at Liverpool port. British renewable energy firm RES has revealed plans for the project at the Port […]

By Kelvin Ross

A £300m biomass facility has been targeted to be built in a dock at Liverpool port.

British renewable energy firm RES has revealed plans for the project at the Port of Liverpool’s Alexandra Dock.

RES would use wood as a fuel source for the plant, as well as potentially waste wood from the surrounding area, and believes the facility could generate between 100-150MW, enough electricity for the equivalent of 170,000 to 250,000 homes every year.

And RES also plans to exploit the location of the plant. With the bustling Port of Liverpool, owned by Peel Ports, on its doorstep, RES intends to transport 80% of biomass fuel to the site by ship.

RES project manager Johanna Doyle said utilising ships would “ensure that road deliveries to the site are minimised while using the skills and expertise that exist within the Port and local area. This project will contribute to wider regeneration and bring secure jobs to the region.”

RES hopes to have planning permission by autumn next year and plans to have the site operational by 2015.

Peel Ports’ chief surveyor Andy Martin said: “We are delighted to be working with RES and look forward to them bringing their experience, capabilities and strong track record to this project.” He added that the facility would “bring significant benefits and green collar jobs for the people of Sefton, Liverpool and the North West. The development supports the port’s strategic plans to contribute to the low carbon economy.”

Liverpool port handles over 33m tonnes of cargo each year. It is already the UK entry point for many forest products, biomass fuels and wind turbine components that serve the renewable energy industry.

With the government confirming this week that funding worth £60m would be given to ports in the north east to ensure they had the capability to handle offshore parts destined for windfarms along and in the North Sea, news of the biomass project is a boost for the north west.

It also highlights the growing link between the renewable energy and shipping industries. The shipping industry’s fortunes took a downturn about a year before the credit crunch bit elsewhere. Work at many yards ground to a standstill as owners were unable to pay for vessels on order.

But the renewable energy sector is reliant on shipping. Turbines need transporting on specialist vessels and these need building by specialist yards.

Last week at the European Future Energy Forum, Adrian Fox, supply chain manager of the Crown Estate, said: “Innovation and new ideas is potentially what the shipbuilding industry could bring. It’s time to do that in the long term. I do think there’s a key role for the shipbuilding industry.”

Martin Bilhardt, chief executive of PNE Wind, added: “There is demand for ships. There aren’t enough for the near future but there’s capacity for more, the markets will regulate that, so we are not fearing that there won’t be the ships to build our wind farms”

And Steve Sawyer, secretary-general of the Global Wind Energy Council, said: “People are not going to invest in building ships unless they see a five, ten, fifteen year commitment by governments. We are starting to see this in Europe and it’s stimulating investment.”

The biomass project is a further boost for Liverpool as a centre of renewable excellence. Only last month European energy giant Enfinity picked the city as the base for its first UK headquarters.

Patrick Decuyper, co-founder and chief executive of Enfinity Europe, said: “As part of our ambitious business growth across Europe we had been looking at the UK market to establish viable options for our onshore wind and photovoltaic business. After looking at a number of cities Liverpool ticked all the right boxes for our business needs. Liverpool offers us a high quality skill set, excellent transport links, access to business expertise and exceptional value for money.”

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