Templeborough biomass: UK renewable power plant
Templeborough is a biomass-based power station located in Rotherham, South Yorkshire. Construction teams broke ground in the middle of 2015 and the plant finally ramped up to full commercial operations in 2019, when it started feeding up to 40MW of electricity into the national grid. The site supplies energy to 78,000 homes by burning wood from sustainable forestry sources.
How does biomass energy work?
Biomass refers to all sorts of organic material containing energy that can be unlocked and used. For heating and energy generation purposes, this usually involves a combustion or gasification process, more commonly known as burning.
Templeborough power station is designed around a familiar steam turbine generator design. Electricity is generated thanks to this straightforward process:
- Wood is burned in a purpose-built industrial boiler.
- The heat released turns water into steam.
- The pressurized steam provides enough rotational force to turn the turbine.
- The spinning turbine is hooked up to a generator which produces electricity.
- The electricity the plant generates is fed into the national grid.
However, not all biomass power stations are created equal. While Templeborough generates only electricity, there are wood-fired power plants elsewhere in Europe that generate both electricity and heat. They fall under the Combined Heat and Power (CHP) category.
The motivation behind CHP designs is that burning biomass to make electricity releases a lot of heat that usually just goes to waste. These plants are able to collect the heat and channel it into a district heating system that serves the local community, such as an adjacent town or city.
The crucial element justifying the existence of a CHP plant is an extensive community or district heating scheme. District heating is an independent local energy grid whose purpose is to distribute heat from a central location to residential households or commercial buildings throughout a city or town.
Compared to other countries, CHP and district heating haven’t seen the same level of adoption in the UK. However, with almost 50% of energy being lost as heat in regular power stations, it might be time to reevaluate the ‘Dash For Gas’ policy from the 1990s that pushed people overwhelmingly towards individual gas-fired heating and hot water systems instead of more community-based options.
Templeborough has significant potential for district heating, considering its location near a business park and several housing developments.
Why is burning biomass greener than coal and gas?
Templeborough burns wood to generate electricity. While it is true that burning wood produces carbon emissions, these emissions are much less harmful than the greenhouse gases produced by fossil fuel-powered plants and vehicles. This rationale is based on three key principles:
- Carbon released by burning wood is “newer” than the carbon released by coal or gas-fired stations. This means it is still part of the current carbon cycle, as opposed to carbon released from a carbon cycle that took place millions of years ago, as is the case with natural gas and coal.
- Burning wood in this way prevents it from going into a landfill, where it would break down and release methane, a greenhouse gas with a much greater negative impact on the environment than carbon.
- Best practices can be implemented to supply the power station with wood from renewable forestry operations where biomass waste is collected and trees are replanted to mitigate deforestation and commercial wood uses.
These principles solidly position Templeborough in the environmentally-friendly and low-carbon end of the energy generation market. It is estimated that Templeborough Biomass will prevent 150,000 tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere which is equivalent to taking over 30,000 cars off British roads, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). However, the benefits of biomass energy do not limit themselves to national energy and sustainability policies.
How does Templeborough benefit local communities?
The Templeborough project took its potential community impact seriously early on. Traffic studies were carried out to ensure that local roads could support the new commercial lorry influx to the area. Planners and investors also implemented worksite practices that minimised noise pollution and increased worker safety.
Plant construction and operation
Over ten British firms were involved in site clearing, excavation, building and engineering tasks during the construction of the biomass plant. The work site is estimated to have employed between 150 and 200 people.
The construction process injected £65m into the British economy, of which £40m were set aside for the local construction industry and supply chain. In spite of this, the project was very much an international team effort which validated the initial promise of the concept.
Danish infrastructure fund Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners backed the project early on and is committed to making the plant a success alongside the current plant operators, Babcock & Wilcox Volund, who are contracted for the first 15-year lease.
Energy industry expertise
Aside from money and jobs being added to the national economy, Templeborough Biomass brings something that is equally valuable to the area. A new power plant is a unique venue for many opportunities, such as growing local engineering expertise and talent which invariably leads to a better-qualified workforce, skilled jobs and higher salaries.
The planned Rotherham Renewable Energy Centre is a clear example of the kind of opportunities the power plant is bringing to the region. The aim of this project is to develop expertise around renewable energy while providing another source of local and affordable energy based on Japanese waste material gasification technology, another promising renewable energy avenue.
Templeborough address and contact details
The power plant is located in Rotherham; more specifically in an industrial area between the Holmes Tail Goit waterway and the Don river, which gives the plant easy access to water to feed its turbines.
Templeborough Power Station
6 Aspen Way
The best way to get in touch with the power plant for general enquiries is through their online contact form where you only need to put in your name, email address and a message to submit any questions or comments.
For more urgent queries, you can call or email the power plant directly.
Telephone: 07756 674294
The plant can arrange visits for both individuals and school groups as long as they are booked in advance. Tim Forrest is the communications officer for the plant and the best person to arrange a visit with.