£120m project powers ahead

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CONSTRUCTION started this week on a £120m plant that will turn waste wood into electricity on the edge of Sheffield, creating a new landmark next to the M1.

Energy Minister Charles Hendry joined a ceremony on Tuesday to break the first ground for the building of E.ON’s biomass power station at Blackburn Meadows, which is designed to provide electricity for up to 40,000 homes by the middle of 2014.

The development on the site of the original Blackburn Meadows Power Station will also include a visitor centre to show how energy is produced as well as highlighting the industrial heritage of the site.

Mr Hendry said: “The project will not just provide secure, low-carbon energy from waste wood, it will support hundreds of jobs in construction too.”

When fully operational, E.ON’s plant will generate up to 30MW through the recycling of waste wood. It has been estimated that the burning of the carbon neutral fuel in place of traditional fossil fuels such as coal and gas is the equivalent of taking more than 20,000 cars off the UK’s roads each year.

The company was granted planning permission by Sheffield City Council in July 2008 and began clearing the site last November. It predicts around 30 full-time jobs will be created and says, as far as is possible, that it will use local companies for the construction.

Already E.ON owns and operates a biomass plant near Lockerbie in Scotland. The scheme produces enough power to supply around 70,000 homes and displaces approximately 140,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide each year by burning wood in place of traditional fuels like coal and gas.

At Blackburn Meadows, E.ON will put in place a community benefits fund worth up to £25,000 a year to support local projects throughout the lifetime of the plant, enhance the appearance and biodiversity of the area through landscaping and construct an onsite visitor centre which will show how energy is produced as well as highlighting the industrial heritage of the site.

Tim Forrest, head of biomass, said: “We’re pleased that the minister has recognised the significance of our investment in this development, both for Sheffield and for the UK. We’re committed to developing renewable energy and biomass power stations such as Blackburn Meadows form a very important part of that low-carbon solution.”

Blackburn Meadows Power Station was demolished in the early 1980s. The two nearby cooling towers stood for a further 27 years until they were demolished in 2008.

E.ON is helping to finance a piece of public art to compensate for the loss of the cooling towers, although no designs has yet been chosen.