Fort William Firm Secures Renewable Heat Contract

Plan to use biomass to heat public sector buildings

A Fort William company will benefit from a new green energy contract that will deliver renewable heat to public sector buildings, Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced yesterday.

The Biomass Energy Supply Framework has been developed by the Scottish Government for the supply of renewable heat using Biomass wood fuel.

The contract is expected to save taxpayers up to £8.5 million will save more than 198,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide over the next four years.

HWEnergy will supply wood fuel from sustainable sources and if required, install wood-burning boilers. The buildings affected include central government, fire, police, health, local authorities, police, universities and colleges and the third sector.

Ms Sturgeon said:

“This contract will reduce costs to the public sector saving millions of taxpayers’ money over the next four years.”

“It is important for companies like HWEnergy because it supports jobs and encourages further growth and investment in Scotland’s renewable energy sector.”

“The contract supports the delivery of the ‘A Low Carbon Scotland’ by reducing CO2 output. It will also contribute to the Scottish Government’s target of 11% of total heat demand from renewable energy by 2020.”





Distillery bio-fuels produced at the expense of animal feedstuffs?

Concern expressed in Scottish Farmer article

An article yesterday on the Scottish Farmer website reports that the national Farmers’ Union are worried by the increasing use of distillery by-products as fuel for renewable energy installations, rather than feed for livestock. Last week NFUs’ chief executive, Scott Walker, met with members of thte Banff and Buchan Branch – the heart of the Speyside ‘whisky trail’ – to discuss the issue. NFU have written to the Rural Affairs secretary Richard Lochhead to relay their members’  worries over the future availability of dark grains to their industry.

Dark grains are a by product of alcohol distillation  obtained by drying solid residues of fermented grain to which certain solubles (pot ale syrup or evaporated spent wash) have been added. This is a valued feed source for cattle and sheep in Scotland. The union are worried  that the loss of this valued feed source could have a knock on effect on Scotland’s already declining cattle and sheep population.

Mr Walker said: “Scotland may be sleepwalking towards a fundamental change in the availability of animal protein, with negative consequences for the livestock and dairy sectors of Scottish agriculture.

It is not entirely clear where this new concern springs from as previous fears expressed in the middle of last year were dismissed when Helius CoRDe, the developers of the new combined heat and power biomass energy plant at Rothes,  provided reassurances that the draff intended for the biomass plant is a product that does not normally find its way onto the North East or Scottish markets.  As such, it said at the time, supplies of draff to farmers in the area are likely to be unaffected by the development of the new biomass plant. The plant operators also indicated that the availability of dark grains would be unaffected by the planned plant and, in the case of pot ale syrup, that available supplies would actually increase.

There is a full article in the current print edition of the Scottish Farmer which may shed more light on the matter. More on this later.


Dark grains up in smoke – Scottish farmer 15 March 2012

Biomass plant won’t deplete distillery feeds – Scottish Farmer June 2011

Union welcomes feed supply reassurances – NFU website June 2011

Scotland toasts new whisky-powered bioenergy plant – Guardian article May 2011 


Is The Tide Turning Against Big Biomass?

Forth Ports’ Proposed Biomass Plants Increasingly Unpopular

In August 2009 when Forth Ports announced its  plans to build four 100-megawatt biomass plants at Dundee, Rosyth, Grangemouth and Leith in partnership with Scottish and Southern Energy the move was cautiously welcomed in the press as a sensible addition to Scotland’s renewable energy mix. Evening News headlineAmong other statements made at the time Charles Hammond, Forth Ports chief executive, claimed that the plant in Dundee would produce enough energy to make the city’s entire population carbon-neutral.

Forth Ports also claimed that  the plants – which they said would be  fuelled by wood pellets and forestry waste, some from overseas but all from sustainable sources  – would help tackle climate change and create 600 jobs during construction and a further 180 permanent posts once in operation.

However, when the plans for the  plant at Leith Docks were unveiled in February 2010 it became clear that the plant would be shipping in up to a million tonnes of non-Scottish biomass material annually.  Forth Energy was accused of ‘greenwash’ , and  the notion that importing and burning millions of tons of wood could be be described as ‘green energy’ was ridiculed.

A local pressure group, Greener Leith, was formed  to examine the proposals in more detail. Their conclusion was that while the proposed plant might  be environmentally preferable to a new coal fired plant it was  too big, in the wrong place – and would   do little to help tackle climate change over the necessary  timescale. They have also questioned the idea that all the wood brought in from abroad would in fact be from sustainable sources.

More recently Greener Leith, FOE Scotland and other pressure groups have concentrated on the social cost of ‘big biomass’, questioning  the effect that these huge plants with their insatiable desire for fuel will have on the supply of native timber for small-scale schemes such as district heating schemes, and on the supply of wood for wood-fired domestic heating.

Any scheme over 50MW has to be approved by the Scottish Government, and  the position of the newly elected SNP majority government on biomass was made quite clear in its manifesto:

“We support the expansion of local, small-scale biomass and share public concerns over the large-scale schemes now being proposed in some parts of Scotland.”

In the light of the above manifesto statement it seems unlikely that these plants will ever be built in their currently proposed forms.


Forth Ports website

Greener Leith  

FOE Scotland – Back Away from Big Biomass