‘Green’ biomass plant to ship in its chips from America
By CHRIS MARSHALL from News Scotman
THE environmental credentials of the planned biomass power station in
Leith were under fire today after it was revealed it will be fuelled
by woodchip shipped from as far away as north America.
Energy bosses plan to buy in hundreds of thousands of tonnes of wood
from sustainable forests abroad to provide material for the plant at
Imperial Dock near Ocean Terminal.
Green groups say the revelation means the plant cannot claim to be
environmentally friendly due to the carbon emissions involved in
shipping the material thousands of miles.
It is just one of a number of controversies surrounding the £360
million development, which developer Forth Energy states will have the
ability to produce enough electricity to meet the "majority" of
Due for completion in late 2014 or early 2015 if it wins the approval
of the Scottish Government, the plant is expected to support 150
construction jobs as well as 40 operational posts when up and running.
There is local concern about the scale of the development though,
which will involve demolition of a B-listed grain silo and the
erection of a smoke stack up to 100 metres high which will be visible
from across the city.
Local campaigners claim the plans amount to a tearing up of the
masterplan for the area, with the plant earmarked for a site
originally intended to be a park which is within 400 metres of
existing housing developments.
It is the use of timber from Scandinavia and north America which has
upset environmental groups due to the pollution caused by shipping and
the impact on the world’s forests. Timber which is turned into wood
chip before being transported is sourced from overseas because
Scotland does not currently have enough sustainable forests to meet
Robin Harper, Green MSP for the Lothians, said: "Under no
circumstances should we be importing woodchip into Scotland when we
could be growing our own instead.
"If Forth Energy were serious about doing this properly they would be
coordinating with the Forestry Commission and Scottish companies and
making long-term agreements for fuel supply.
"A proper biomass plant could be extremely good for the area,
especially if it was designed to provide both heat and power to local
"It makes sense for Edinburgh and Leith to generate more power close
to where it’s needed, but this is really not the right approach."
A United Nations report from 2008 calculated that annual emissions
from shipping had reached 1.12bn tonnes of CO2 a year – 4.5 per cent
of all global emissions.
Duncan McLaren, chief executive of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said
the plans fell "well short" of what environmentalists had hoped
for."The idea of using biomass from a sustainable source is something
we support," he said. "But shipping is a fairly major contributor to
climate change. Our biggest concern, however, is not shipping but the
overall impact plants like this have when sourcing biomass from other
"The developers have to be challenged to source their wood chip
sustainably. I think this plant is highly commercially viable but far
from the most sustainable form of renewable energy."
According to Forth Energy, the biomass plant would generate up to 200
megawatts of electricity for the local network and provide heat for
local homes from the use of around 1.3 million tonnes per year of
While the majority of that fuel is expected to be wood chip, up to 30
per cent will be drawn from purpose-grown energy crops, agricultural
residues and recovered biomass materials, such as paper and cardboard.
Alastair Tibbitt, development manager at local campaign group Greener
Leith, said his group believed that could mean up to 50 trucks a day
heading for the plant. He said: "This development is so big that it
will, in effect, be another ‘bad neighbour’ development.
"It’s pretty clear to us that the original plan for the area has been
thrown out of the window."
However, Mr Tibbitt said his group backed plans for a biomass plant in
principal, adding that such a development had the potential to add an
"element of dynamism" to the area if done properly.
Calum Wilson, the managing director of Forth Energy, said: "I believe
the port location is the right place and bringing the fuel in by sea
is the right model. The largest percentage will be imported biomass.
It could be imported from areas such as north America or from
Scandinavia from sustainably managed forests."
Mr Wilson also said the decision on where to site the Leith plant had
been taken "within the last few weeks", and he maintained that the
complex would not put off residential developers in future.