Biomass Bring Energy To U.K. Supermarket

The construction of a biomass plant at a U.K. supermarket is raising the suggestion that such retail outlets could become sources of energy for their surrounding neighborhoods. It’s seen as another way of taking advantage of the possibilities of distributed power generation.

Envido, which works with companies and governments to reduce their carbon emissions, picked up on this idea after noting that a Waitrose store on Isle of Wight, in England’s south, will use locally sourced woodchips for power production – and that the system has extra capacity, enough to potentially turn it into an energy hub for the surrounding area.

biomass plant at supermarket, Waitrose

image via Waitrose

Envido cites Martin Hunt, of the nonprofit pro-sustainability group Forum for the Future, who says large retailers can easily go beyond giving themselves a secure energy source with their decentralized power projects. There’s no real technical challenge to powering the surrounding area; it’s just a matter of a few companies showing the way in order to “build confidence in the wider prospects of such local energy hubs.”

That’s a view echoed by Paul van Heyningen, climate change manager at Tesco, which has a zero carbon supermarket in Cambridgeshire that uses a biofuel generator and already sends excess energy to the grid. “Such flagship developments were especially important to trial new technologies before incorporating them to stores elsewhere,” van Heyningen tells Envido.

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.

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