An island with relatively sparse domestic energy resources, the United Kingdom has been experimenting mostly with wind power as it attempts to expand its renewable energy portfolio. Indeed, this December, an average of 5.3 percent of the U.K.’s electricity came from wind power, with a record high of 12.2 percent of energy demand derived from wind power on December 28.
But the challenge of balancing the grid with an increasing amount of intermitent power may have led the U.K.’s Department of Environment and Climate Change (DECC) to begin seriously exploring other options. This month, the DECC granted permission for energy and gas company E.On Climate and Renewables to construct a 150-megawatt (MW) biomass plant that will be fueled from imported virgin wood, dedicated crops and local waste wood. The plant will be located at the Royal Portbury Dock in the Port of Bristol in North Somerset.
E.On applied to the DECC for permission to build the plant in August 2009, but the application was delayed as the DECC weighed impacts on the local community and ecosystem. Among the DECC’s concerns listed in the department’s final decision letter were likely noise and visual pollution plant construction would cause to the local community, the need for E.On to safely remove waste ash from the plant during operation, the concern that the plant would be located too close to a nearby fuel importation facility and the larger concern that biomass generation might be less sustainable than other types of clean energy systems.
In addition, the DECC wrote, “a condition should be included to ensure there is no possibility of conversion to “another less acceptable type of fuel.” Ultimately, the U.K. secretary of state decided that “any additional adverse visual impacts resulting specifically from the development are outweighed by its benefits,” according to the DECC decision letter.