Renewable energy developer RES2 moves step closer to building £250M biomass-fueled power station at U.K.'s Port of Blyth, with formal acceptance of planning application; facility would produce 750GWh/year of electricity

Kendall Sinclair

Kendall Sinclair

Apr 13, 2012 – Renewable Energy Systems

KINGS LANGELY, England , April 13, 2012 (press release) – Formal acceptance of planning application will trigger new round of consultation

Proposals to build a £250 million renewable energy power station at Battleship Wharf in the Port of Blyth have moved another step closer to reality. The Planning Inspectorate1 has now confirmed formal acceptanceof the application for a Development Consent Order, which renewable energy developer RES2 submitted forconsideration in March this year.

RES is proposing to develop the power station on a brownfield site within the Port of Blyth, regenerating atract of under-utilised open storage land at Battleship Wharf. Instead of burning coal or gas, the powerstation would use biomass in the form of woodchip, pellets or briquettes derived from sustainable sourcessuch as managed forests and the by-products of timber manufacture. The majority of the wood fuel would bedelivered to the site by ship using existing port facilities rather than road transport.

If consented, North Blyth biomass power station would have the capacity to generate up to 750GWh(gigawatt hours) of clean, renewable electricity a year - which is equivalent to the average needs ofapproximately 170,000 homes. This would make a significant contribution to the UK's future energyrequirements and help to achieve the North East's goal of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 20203.

RES Project Manager Chris Lawson said: "Acceptance of our application is a major milestone and we arelooking forward to participating in the next phase of consultation and providing any further information thatthe 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 andorganisations who can see the opportunities that the proposed development represents."

"We firmly believe that the Blyth Estuary area has the facilities, the support services and the skills to becomea vibrant centre for renewable energy generation projects like ours. It's a very exciting proposition whichNorthumberland County Council and the Port of Blyth, together with other organisations in the region, areworking very hard towards. If all goes well, we hope that North Blyth biomass power station will become anintegral part of the regeneration of the area, helping to create new jobs and attracting other employers toinvest here as well."
Attracting Investment

One example of the work Northumberland County Council and the Port of Blyth are doing to attractcompanies like RES is the establishment of the Blyth Estuary Renewable Energy Zone (BEREZ). BEREZ ishome to the UK's National Renewable Energy Centre (Narec) and includes extensive industry and businesspark facilities on both the north and the south banks of the River Blyth Estuary. The Council and Port also cooperatedto establish the bi-annual Blyth Renewable Energy Festival, which aims to highlight the importanceof renewable energy to the wider community and showcase the growing cluster of renewable energy-relatedorganisations around the estuary.

Martin Lawlor, Chief Executive of the Port of Blyth, explains: "There is a real sense of continuity here - wecan trace the use of the estuary as a port right back to Norman times. The natural deep water harbour iswhat attracted people to settle here in the first place and over time we have improved the port and developeda skills base which most recently has been based on heavy engineering and traditional energy generationsuch as coal. We're really proud of this heritage, but we also have to move with the times and capitalise onour strengths. Renewable energy generation is a prime example of the sort of business we need toencourage in order to replace declining industry sectors, create jobs and secure a long term future for thecommunities that rely on the port for employment."

Employment opportunities

RES estimates that North Blyth biomass power station will employ 150 people on average during the twoyearconstruction period, although this could rise to 300 people on site at peak times. The range of skillsrequired would include labourers, hauliers, electricians, joiners and welders. It is believed around 50 peoplewould be needed to keep the plant running smoothly once it is operational, with opportunities includingcleaners, administrative support, maintenance engineers and management posts.

Chris Lawson says: "We are confident that the skills and services exist to match our requirements and thatmany of the opportunities will be filled from the local population. In addition to direct employment duringconstruction and operation, the biomass power station would also create knock-on employment."

"The most obvious example is at the port, which would handle around 80% of the fuel deliveries, but thereare lots of other ways in which the biomass power station could benefit the surrounding area over time. Forexample, visitors to the site will need places to stay, or a taxi to take them to and from the railway station;employees will buy their morning paper from the local newsagent, or lunch from a visiting sandwich van. It'sthis modest but continuous contribution to local prosperity that is often overlooked when considering how anew development might contribute to the local community."

Community benefits

RES has also committed to making a very visible contribution to the communities around the Blyth Estuary inthe form of a Community Benefit Fund, which will come into force should the biomass power station becomeoperational. At a conservative estimate, the Fund will provide around £2 million over the power station'slifetime. The authority to decide where that money is spent rests with local people, as Chris Lawson explains.

"RES firmly believes that communities should receive a direct and tangible benefit from hosting nationallyimportant developments like new power stations. As a voluntary goodwill gesture, RES sets aside a certainamount of money each year for communities near our renewable energy projects. Local people can then usethis Community Benefit Fund to support environmental, educational and social projects in their immediatearea. In our experience, it encourages a community to come together and make decisions about what isreally important to them."

Another way in which RES encourages people near its developments to come together and raise concernsor get answers to their questions is via a Community Liaison Group (CLG). The North Blyth CLG wasestablished at the end of 2011 and currently includes county, district and parish councillors andrepresentatives of community organisations such as residents associations, as well as a representative froma local opposition group.

The next CLG meeting is due to convene at Charltons, Cambois Beach, on Tuesday 24th April, at 6.30pmwhen it is anticipated that the Planning Inspectorate will have announced initial details of the next round ofconsultation. Members of the public are welcome to attend and observe proceedings and attendance is free.Details of future CLG meetings and consultation events regarding North Blyth biomass power station will beadvertised locally and made available on the project website at www.northblythproject.co.uk.

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