Query on green credentials of biomass plant

ENVIRONMENTALISTS say there is “no guarantee” over the sourcing of wood for a £130m biomass plant which could form part of the region’s “green” revolution.

Real Ventures’ Reality Energy Centre near King George Dock in Hull will provide enough green electricity to power 95,000 homes – a third of the size of the city.

The developers say the plant will create between 200 and 250 jobs during the 30-month construction phase and 35 permanent posts during the plant’s 25-year life.

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Planners are recommending that councillors back the plans when they are discussed at a meeting next Wednesday.

The developers say they will use pelleted virgin wood from the residues of sustainable commercial forestry operations and have told a local Friends of the Earth group it will come from the debris left on forest floors after trees have been felled.

The majority, 250,000 tonnes, will be shipped into Hull by sea.

But FoE campaigner Kenneth Richter said: “The difficulty is there is no guarantee that this is actually going to come from waste wood.

“In fact experience from other power stations burning wood is that they burn wood chips that come from trees that have been felled for this purpose.

“The Department of Energy and Climate Change’s own figures show that burning trees can be up to 50 per cent worse for the climate than burning coal.

“The Government must introduce binding safeguards that the burning of trees is not subsidised as renewable energy.”

Sue Jolliffe, from the local FoE group, said they were neither supporting nor objecting to the proposals. They’d been told the wood would come from the debris left behind after trees have been felled.

She said: “The person we spoke to said it wouldn’t be any more environmentally unfriendly coming from America because they would be using larger boats.

“We are taking this on trust, but they do seem to want to use waste wood that is genuinely not used for any other purposes.”

The plant, which will have a 250ft high stack, will supply 49MW of electricity as well as heat.

The developers have been granted planning permission for a similar scheme in Immingham.

Planners say the site will bring benefits to the city in terms of jobs and will employ between 140 and 240 people during construction.

They said the project in combination with other ventures in the city would help “promote Hull as a sustainable energy centre”.

A spokesman for the company said: “We have made it clear in the planning application and to Friends of the Earth that the biomass for the plant will be virgin wood, recovered from residues from sustainably-grown forests.

“We will not be burning any waste timber recovered from buildings.

“We are conforming with the Government’s own requirements on sustainability.”

The developers have claimed “overwhelming” public support for the project.

Speaking earlier this year, Ray Tucker, chief executive officer of Real Ventures (Hull), said: “Feedback in the form of written questionnaires was very positive and showed overwhelming support for the new centre with its green credentials.”

The plant will produce around 19 tonnes of ash which will be transported in two lorries to recycling centres. It can be used in both construction and agriculture.

Emissions will be regulated by the Environment Agency.

Planning permission was granted earlier this year for the proposed Green Port Hull development, which would see Europe’s largest engineering company, Siemens, to create a £210m facility on Alexandra Dock to assemble and manufacture offshore wind turbines. However sign-off on the deal is still awaited.