Madrid-based Acciona opens €50M, 16-MW biomass plant at Miajadas, Spain; facility will consume 110,000 metric tons of raw material, produce electricity equivalent to needs of 40,000 homes

Michelle Rivera

Michelle Rivera

Nov 16, 2010 – Acciona

MADRID, Spain , November 16, 2010 (press release) – The facility will use 110,000 metric tons a year of agricultural waste products (70% herbaceous and 30% ligneous).

The plant has created 100 stable jobs in the region of Extremadura and will generate clean electricity equivalent to the consumption of 40,000 homes.

The Company has signed supply contracts with 120 companies and farmers in the area to ensure the supply of raw materials.

This plant strengthens ACCIONA's position in the electricity-from-biomass sector in Spain. It now has five plants in operation totaling 65 MW and another five (82 MW) are in the administrative permits process.

ACCIONA today inaugurated its biomass plant at Miajadas (Cáceres province, Spain), a facility with a capacity of 16 MW representing an investment of 50 million euros. It is the first of its type in Spain designed to use mixed raw material (herbaceous and ligneous agricultural waste products), which makes facilitates supplies and improves profitability.

The plant will consume around 110,000 metric tons of raw material and will produce electricity equivalent to the consumption of around 40,000 homes. It has created around 100 permanent jobs directly related to its operation (25 of them in the plant itself) and strengthens ACCIONA's position in the electricity-from-biomass sector in Spain, where the Company already has five plants in operation totaling 65 MW and a total production capacity of around 500 million kilowatt-hours per year.

In the opening ceremony institutions were represented by the President of the Regional Government of Extremadura, Guillermo Fernández Vara and his Regional Minister for Industry, Energy and the Environment, José Luis Navarro. On behalf of ACCIONA, Group President José Manuel Entrecanales was present together with other senior managers, among them ACCIONA Energy Director-General Rafael Mateo. Speeches were made by the Presidents of Extremadura and ACCIONA and the Mayor of Miajadas, Antonio Díaz.
A singular plant

The Miajadas biomass plant is an innovative installation, as around 70% of its raw material will be of herbaceous origin (mainly corn straw, a product that cannot be used for livestock), and around 30% of ligneous origin (mainly from the pruning of holm oaks, olive and fruit trees), which will be supplied in the form of wood chips. The plant has started to work with corn straw and in spring 2011 the ligneous material will be incorporated into the system.

Another singular aspect of the project is the inclusion of energy crops (solely used to supply the plant): cereals such as triticale and sorghum wheat, and ligneous species such as poplar or eucalyptus.

Its innovative nature has led to the plant being included in the Enercorn R&D project under the 7th Framework Program of support for research of the European Union. ACCIONA has headed this project in collaboration with other companies and technology centres from Spain, Finland and Denmark. The Miajadas plant is considered an exemplary initiative that is capable of demonstrating the technical and economic viability of this kind of facility, and thus serve as an example and stimulus for the development of this technology in the EU.
A boost to employment in rural areas

To guarantee the operation of the biomass plant at Miajadas, ACCIONA has signed 120 supply contracts, twenty of them with agricultural and forestry service companies and around one hundred with farmers. This represents a boost to the primary sector in the region, mainly in the areas of Vegas del Guadiana and Tierra de Barros.

In terms of employment, the 25 jobs created in the operation and maintenance of the plant will be complemented by a further 75 indirect jobs in the management, collection, transport and storage of the biomass. An average of 300 workers have been employed in the construction of the plant, which began in October 2008.

The new biomass plant will generate around 128 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year and will avoid the emission of approximately 123,000 metric tons of CO2 to the atmosphere from conventional coal-fired power stations. This represents a cleaning effect on the atmosphere similar to that of six million trees through the process of photosynthesis. It will also help to reduce energy dependency, displacing the consumption of fossil fuel equivalent to over 73,000 barrels of oil a year.
ACCIONA, five plants operational

With the entry into service of the Miajadas plant, ACCIONA now has five in Spain with a total capacity of 65 MW: Sangüesa, in Navarra (25 MW) since 2002, and Briviesca, in Burgos (16 MW), which was grid connected last September. Both plants burn straw to generate electricity. The other two plants (4 MW each) are located in the provinces of Soria and Cuenca, and use forestry and other ligneous waste products.

The Company also has five projects for biomass plants at different stages of administrative permit procedures, totaling 82 MW: two in Castilla y León -Almazán (16 MW) in Soria and Valencia de Don Juan (25 MW) in León-; another two in Castilla La Mancha -Alcázar de San Juan (Ciudad Real) and Mohorte (Cuenca), both with 16 MW- and Utiel (9 MW) in the region of Valencia.

ACCIONA's presence in this technology represents 11% of the solid biomass capacity planned for Spain by the end of 2010 - 596 MW, according to the recent Renewable Energy Action Plan (PANER) approved by the central government. This figure, however, only represents 45% of the objectives set for that date in the Renewable Energy Plan for 2005-2010 (1,317 MW).
An efficient technology which should grow in the future

The reasons for the limited growth of biomass for electricity generation in Spain have to do with development costs and associated infrastructures, but also with costs related to the supply of raw material and operation of the plants. It is essential to guarantee the supply of raw material, and to do this ACCIONA has applied its extensive experience in supply logistics in recent years (its first straw combustion plant opened in 2002) and guarantees supplies through long-term contracts with companies and farmers.

In any event, in order to reverse the trend that limits the development of this energy technology in Spain, the Company believes that it would be very useful if the public administrations in charge of the areas of Industry, Agriculture and the Environment could actively participate in policies to promote the use of biomass for energy generation. This has undeniable advantages, particularly in terms of creating employment and additional income for people in rural areas. Furthermore, it is a renewable technology that guarantees the supply of electricity to the grid because the raw material needed for production is always available.

ACCIONA considers biomass as part of the energy mix of the future, and has decided to develop - together with Spanish manufacturers - its own technology in herbaceous waste product plants at a competitive cost, as well as opening up new growth avenues such as the one illustrated by the installation of the first multi-fuel boiler in Spain in its plant at Miajadas.

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