Renewable Energy: Biomass – a Report for SSSC Overview &
Renewable Energy can be defined as an energy resource that is replaced
rapidly by a natural process, such as power generated from the sun, from the
wind or can be grown.
Energy sources provided in this way are becoming more important because:
? The adverse impacts some fuels, e.g. fossil fuels have on climate
change and global warming. When using renewable energy, emissions
of greenhouse gases are virtually zero.
? Some non-renewable sources are rapidly being depleted, the use of
which can often mean dependence on other countries, where political
conflict can affect supply
? Renewable energies are also more often cheaper to produce than
other types in the long term
? Renewables, particularly microgeneration can help to alleviate fuel
? Renewables are more efficient, especially locally based renewables,
where as a typical large fossil fuelled power station wastes over a third
of its fuel by simply heating up the atmosphere
? There is potential job creation as the renewable energy industry is
predicted to experience significant growth.
The necessity of conversion to renewable energy is also being driven by EU
Directives, which are translated into national standards and targets.
It is an accepted fact that the continued use of fossil fuels for energy
production is in the medium to long term unsustainable. There is also
evidence to show that an increased concentration of carbon dioxide (CO) and 2
other green house gases is leading to climate change and global warming.
Over 80% of the fuel delivered to public buildings is used for heating and at
the present time almost 99% of that fuel is from non-renewable sources.
Doncaster Council has already made the commitment to maximise positive
impact on the environment and reduce the impact upon climate change in the
Corporate Plan (Action 21).
Although this report mentions the major types of renewable energies, it will
concentrate on those that Doncaster Council is currently using or have the
viable potential to be used in the immediate future. Much of the evidence has
been gathered as part of the Council‟s „Carbon Management Programme‟, a
10 month process completed earlier this year and led by the Carbon Trust, to
help us to identify how the Authority can best move forward in reducing its
Rationale for employing Renewable Energies
? National: By 2010, the UK needs to generate 10% of all power from
renewable energy. (Energy White Paper)
from 1990 levels of 20% by ? National: To achieve a reduction in CO2
2010 and 60% by 2050 (Kyoto Protocol/Energy white Paper)
? Regional: 10% of sizable new development‟s energy needs produced
from renewable sources (Consultation Draft Regional Spatial Strategy)
? Regional/Local: South Yorkshire to produce 47MW of power from
renewable energy sources by 2010, with Doncaster contributing
10.6MW (Consultation Draft Regional Spatial Strategy)
? Local: LAA shared priorities:
o Protect the environment for current and future generations by
increasing recycling and reducing waste, resource consumption
and greenhouse gas emissions
o Balance achieving sustained economic & population growth
with environmental protection
Planning Policy Statement 22, Renewable Energy (PPS22), establishes that
local authorities may set targets for on-site renewable energy in residential,
commercial or industrial projects. It also states that “local authorities and
developers should consider the opportunity for incorporating renewable
energy projects in all new developments…local planning authorities should
specifically encourage such schemes through positively expressed policies in
local development documents”.
Major Renewable Energy Sources
There are currently eight key technologies, which are being used to produce
sustainable energy in the UK. (Biomass and Landfill Gas are considered the
Wind – wind turbines use the power of the wind to generate electricity and are
one of the cheapest sources of renewable energy. The location of wind farms
should be carefully considered as they can have detrimental impacts upon
wildlife, landscape character, local communities and airport safety, however
choice of location, and design, can minimise or eliminate these impacts.
Currently two Wind Farm planning applications have been made in Doncaster.
Solar – solar energies include photovoltaic (PV), solar water heating,
concentred solar power and passive solar. PV cells use the sun‟s rays to
generate electricity directly, where as concentred solar power uses reflective
surfaces to concentrate a larger proportion of sunlight onto a smaller area to
drive a sterling engine or evaporate liquid to drive a conventional turbine to
produce electricity, or heat water to provide space heating or hot water. Solar
water heating systems are the most widely used solar systems in the UK.
Passive solar design is a method of designing a building to capture the sun‟s
energy and reduce the need for artificial lighting and heating.
Biomass – this includes biomass in buildings and Biofuels such as bioethanol
and biodiesel for transport. Biomass refers to organic material that can be
used as a fuel source and are usually short rotation crops, such as coppiced
willow or sugarcane. It is important however that biomass is not grown at the
expense of food production, deforestation and biodiversity priorities, as
benefits will be smaller or possibly detrimental. Biomass should ideally be
locally sourced, with the greatest benefits gained from using waste wood from
Wave – wave power machines use the energy contained in ocean waves, and convert this into electricity, this is not currently a widely employed technology
and requires a coastal location.
Tidal – this is the use of the natural rising and falling of water to convert the potential energy created by the difference between high and low tide into
electricity through the use of turbines. The Don is tidal as far upstream as
Stainforth, making tidal energy theoretically possible in Doncaster, but it is
unlikely that this would be a cost-effective way of producing energy.
Hydroelectric – this is the harnessing of energy contained in flowing water in
rivers or from reservoirs to drive a turbine and create electricity. Hydropower
has a high level of efficiency and predictability, giving it an advantage over
some other renewables. Again it would be possible to employ this type of
technology on the Don, but feasibility and cost-effectiveness would need to be
Hydrogen fuel cells – these work like conventional batteries to produce
energy in the form of heat and fuel, with the only emission being water vapour
as the hydrogen mixes with oxygen in the air. Hydrogen fuel cells are
currently very expensive, and the hydrogen must be sourced using renewable
energy to be truly renewable.
Geo-energy – this is the use of natural heat from the earth as an energy
source, Ground Source Heat Pumps (GSHP) are one example of how this
heat can be utilised. GSHP use pipes buried under the ground, which have
water pumped through to use heat from the ground to provide space heating
or warm water, they can also be used to cool a building during hotter months
as the temperature of the ground will be relatively cooler. Air source heat
pumps also exist but are not as efficient as the temperature of air doesn‟t
remain as constant as the temperature of the ground. The National Energy
Foundation believes that the majority of Britain‟s homes could be heated from
heat collecting pipe work buried in their gardens.
Under the PFI Schools Rebuilding Programme consideration is being given to
using geo-thermal technology at one site.
Landfill Gas – Methane gas, released when organic material decomposes
without oxygen, in landfills can be burned to provide electricity or heat to
nearby buildings. This burning produces carbon dioxide, but this is beneficial
as methane is approximately 21 times more potent a greenhouse gas than
carbon dioxide. Three landfill sites in Doncaster, at Bootham Lane, Levitt
Hagg and Skelbrooke, are already using generators to use gas to produce
energy and a fourth, at Scabba Wood has submitted plans to do so.
Carbon footprint of different energy technologies:
Technology Carbon footprint Notes
COAL >1000g Old style plants
<800g Gasification plant OIL ~650g
BIOMASS 93g Miscanthus
25g High density wood chip
(there is potential for a negative footprint using
carbon capture and storage of up to -410g)
PHOTOVOLTAIC 58g In the UK (Solar panels) 35g In southern Europe (due to more sunlight)
(there are expected reductions using thin film
technology) MARINE TECH 25-50g (expected figures as no commercial system in
(Wave & Tidal) UK as yet) HYDRO 10-30g Storage scheme (due to the dam)
<5g Run-of-river scheme (turbine in river)
WIND 4.64g On-shore
5.25g Off-shore NUCLEAR ~5g (footprint could rise to 6.8g with lower grade
Water is fast becoming a precious commodity and with predicted future
climatic changes, conservation of water will become much more important.
Producing energy through the burning of fossil fuel or through nuclear both
demand high levels of water consumption. In comparison renewable
technologies require very small amounts of water to produce the same kWh.
Water Consumption of different energy technologies:
Energy Source Water Consumption (litres/kWh) Nuclear 2.30
Combined Cycle Gas 0.95
? Current levels of the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and methane in
the atmosphere are higher now than at any time in the past 650,000
? In 2004 3.62% of the UK‟s electricity came from renewable sources
(mainly, hydro, biomass and landfill gas). There is no data available for
the level of renewable energy produced in Doncaster.
? DTI projections see total final energy consumption in the UK increasing
by about 13% between 2000 and 2020 with electricity generation
increasing at a slightly lower rate (around 10%) to 346.3TWh in 2000.
These projections also suggest that the UK will remain dependent on
fossil fuels for most of its energy needs over this period.
? The built environment (domestic, commercial and industrial premises)
accounts for around 47% of CO2 emissions in the UK.
? Energy accounts for 18% of Doncaster‟s ecological footprint
(5.19gha/per person, sustainable levels are 1.2gha/per person).
Doncaster‟s local electricity consumption for the domestic sector is on
average 4,023kWh and for the commercial and industrial sector
105,813kWh (in 2004).
At present very little energy is sourced from renewables in Doncaster. A few
private buildings use solar energy and there are some landfill sites, which
produce energy from burning the gas. In order to meet the Draft RSS target
of 10.6MW of renewable energy, Doncaster needs to develop large-scale
renewable schemes such as biomass or wind and promote and encourage
developers to include onsite renewable microgeneration in new developments.
Microgeneration is defined as less than 50kW for electricity and less than
45kW for heat. Microgeneration can act as a catalyst for cultural change as
there are wider benefits to microgeneration than cost and carbon reductions.
Consumers with microgeneration exhibit noticeable changes in their energy
use, as well as sending a clear visual signal to neighbours that a property
contributes in generating low or zero carbon energy.
In 2008 the South Yorkshire Energy Efficiency Advice Centre will merge with
the West Yorkshire Advice Centre's to form a regional Sustainable Energy
Centre. Contract delivery of energy efficiency and renewables will be kept at
Doncaster as the Energy Team has delivered energy saving measures on
behalf of South Yorkshire since 2000. The new Sustainable Energy Centre will
primarily be an advice centre rather than a method of delivery. This will
address the national problem faced by people who would like to include
renewables in buildings but face a lack of advice and a nationally recognised
standard for the technology, manufacturers and installers. The Sustainable
Energy Centre will provide information and advice on the best type of
renewable technology to employ for buildings, the best suited manufacturer
and recommend installers for the technology along with potential funding
sources, such as the Low Carbon Building Programme.
The Yorkshire and Humber Regional Development Agency (RDA) and the
DTI‟s Design and Demonstration Unit will shortly begin two demonstration
projects to evaluate the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of a range of
renewable technologies that can be deployed at the community level to
provide cheap, sustainable energy for deprived communities.
Doncaster Carbon Management Programme
Doncaster Council now completed the Carbon Management Programme
(CMP) and has assessed the Council‟s opportunities to reduce its carbon
emissions from council activities and also realise financial savings as a result
of reduced energy consumption. The CMP was supported by the Carbon
Trust over a ten month period. Doncaster Council has now produced a
Strategy and Implementation Plan (SIP) to embed Carbon Emission
Reduction across the Council‟s services.
The work has identified a number of activities that Doncaster currently
undertakes that contribute to reducing carbon emissions, including boiler
energy efficiency measures, more efficient street lighting and use of biodiesel.
A number of opportunities for reducing the Council‟s carbon footprint have
been identified and those that link to renewable energies are:
? Biomass Boiler replacement at Adwick Leisure Centre
? Conversion of the Ennerdale district heating system to Biomass
? Micro Wind Turbine at Balby Carr Community Sports College and at a
temporary turbine at the Council House.
Barriers to renewable energy
? Initial Cost – renewable energy technologies often have a high
purchase cost but will reduce costs in the long term as energy is then
produced at little or no cost.
? Visual and noise impacts of certain technologies on local people –
certain technologies, most notably wind turbines, have, or are
perceived to have a detrimental effect on people within a close
? Reliability – the supply from most renewables is intermittent.
? Location – most renewable energy technologies require certain
conditions and must be located accordingly.
? Space – large areas of land is required to produce large quantities of
? Lack of information about renewables as the industry is still relatively
Analysis of Doncaster’s Biomass Programme
to the atmosphere. The combustion of biomass as a fuel does return CO2
However unlike the carbon emitted when burning fossil fuels this carbon is
part of the current carbon cycle; it was absorbed during the growth of the fuel
source (planted crop or silvaculture arisings) thus enabling a sustainable
balance to be maintained between the amounts of carbon emitted and
Biomass does not exclusively consist of wood either grown as a crop or taken
from the thinnings etc that arise from forestry management. Various types of
grasses can be grown as a fuel crop and agricultural residues from
commercial crop harvesting or processing can also be used. It is also possible
to burn as biomass food waste from food and drink manufacture, preparation
and processing as well as organic industrial waste (e.g. waste wood from
The amount of additional biomass that grows over the course of a year in a
given area is known as the annual increment. Provided that the amount
consumed is less than the annual increment its use can be sustainable and
biomass can therefore be considered as a low carbon fuel. It is not strictly
true, however, to say that biomass is “carbon neutral”. The carbon emitted as
a result of planting, harvesting, processing and transporting the fuel means
that slightly more carbon is emitted in the use of the fuel than is absorbed by
the fuel source during its lifetime. Compared to the burning of a fossil fuel e.g.
gas a biomass-fuelled appliance of 500KWh size will typically save between
350-380 tons of carbon dioxide per year.
The benefits of using biomass as a sustainable fuel source can be
summarised as follows: -
? Biomass can be sourced locally on an indefinite basis giving a security
? UK sourced biomass can offer local business opportunities to support
the rural economy
? The establishment of local networks of production and usage allows
the financial and environmental costs of fuel transport to be minimised.
All regions within the UK can produce biomass, although some will
have greater productivity than others.
? Woodlands, forestry and agriculture are generally perceived to be an
environmental and social amenity by the public, providing
opportunities for recreation and leisure activities.
? Most biomass fuels emit lower levels of such atmospheric pollutants
as sulphur dioxide, a contributor to “acid rain”. Modern biomass
appliances are highly sophisticated, offering efficiency and emission
levels comparable to the best fossil fuelled appliances.
? Biomass residues, arisings, co-products and waste, if not used for
energy or heat generation may be consigned to landfill. As well as
disposal costs and the use of limited landfill resources, the anaerobic
decay processes that occur in landfill sites produce methane, which is
a greenhouse gas 21 times more potent than CO. 2
Unlike gas a biomass fuelled appliance does require a fuel store, however this need not be much larger than a solid fuel store and can consist of a container rather than a fixed fuel store enabling the fuel to be delivered in a self contained store rather than being decanted into a purpose built unit.
Although logs can be burnt as biomass fuel most appliances use either wood pellets or wood chips. Wood pellets are generally more expensive per ton than wood chips and at the present time the majority are imported form
emissions due to the increased overseas, reducing their impact on CO2
transport emissions. Woodchips are normally between 20 to 50mm long, depending on the appliance they are used with, although some boilers can accept chips of up to 100mm in length. A moisture content of below 35% is generally required for maximum combustion efficiency, necessitating a covered storage area in order to “condition” the chips before use.
Doncaster Council’s Commitment to Biomass
In order to progress the installation of a biomass fuelled heating appliance a thproject group was set up. This group had its first meeting on 20 June 2006
and is a multi disciplinary group consisting of officers with expertise in the fields of engineering, energy supply, procurement and silvaculture. A
representative from the South Yorkshire Forest Partnership (SYFP) is a
member of the group. An officer from St. Leger Homes, which manages the
Council‟s housing stock, was also invited to join the group.
A number of potential sites were investigated in respect of their suitability for conversion to biomass burning. Two sites were eventually chosen, these
being the Adwick Leisure Centre and the boiler house serving a district
heating scheme at Ennerdale Road in Doncaster. Both sites are currently using natural gas as a primary fuel and were chosen for their boiler size (over 500KWH), and room for the placement of fuel stores and ease of access for fuel delivery. At the time of writing a Pre Qualification Questionnaire has been devised and interested firms invited to complete it in order that a short list of suitable suppliers may be compiled.
An integral part of the project is the intention to use wood sourced from the Borough‟s own silvaculture activities as the primary fuel source. In respect of the fuel supply, Doncaster produces between 4-5,000 tons per annum of
wood suitable for chipping from its Arboricultural management operations. Currently woodland management operations chip material directly onto the woodland floor as waste due to lack of transport and an identifiable end use and also landfill large amounts. Both methods of disposal are releasing CO 2
into the atmosphere and in the case of landfilling, methane, which is a far more potent greenhouse gas.
New woodland management plans have identified significant future thinning operations that will produce large quantities of woodchip for at least the next 10 years. Some of the infrastructure for fuel sourcing and delivery is already in
place, including basic wood chipping plant, wood chip transport and, albeit open air, storage.
However in order to utilise the silviculture arisings as a fuel source the necessary infrastructure requires to be in place, what is lacking is equipment capable of moving felled timber from the woodland floor to the woodland roadside where it can either be transported as round wood or chipped in situ and then transported to a storage area. A suitable covered storage area is required in order to enable the woodchip to be conditioned to a moisture content suitable for use in the majority of biomass boilers. At the time of writing a suitable storage facility has been identified on the site of the now defunct Earth Centre at Denaby. This facility consists of a large canopied area that could easily be converted into a storage barn at a lower cost than constructing a new storage facility. Negotiations are currently underway to enable the site to be used for this purpose.
Following the inception of the project group it was originally intended to seek 40-50% funding for the project from Yorkshire Forward (YF) via the SYFP. However the advent of the Low Carbon Buildings Programme grant stream superseded the YF funding and meant that only a small “top up” amount would be available from YF.
An application is being made to the Low Carbon Buildings programme in order to fund a proportion of the cost of the boiler installation.
Grant funding towards the cost of the infrastructure works is now being sought under the Pathfinder 3 submission to YF. This grant aid will only be given provided that the boiler installation works are proceeded with and is unlikely to be made available before March 2008.
Because of this restriction two other funding streams are being investigated in order to ensure that the necessary infrastructure is put in place, these being the Esme Fairburn Foundation scheme and the Department of Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) Bio Energy Infrastructure Scheme.
The whole life cost analyses carried out to date indicate that the installation of a biomass fired boiler will considerably reduce that buildings fuel costs per annum when compared to the use of a fossil fuel such as gas.
In order for the project to be a success the feasibility of moving monies to match fund the scheme from the allocation in the 2009/10 Capital Programme to the Capital Programme for 2007/8 is currently being examined, if the applications for grant aid to fund part of the costs of the infrastructure works are successful.
Should this not occur then it will be possible to fund the installation of the appliance by means of an Energy Supply Contract (ESCo). An ESCo is where a chosen supplier provides and often installs an appliance at no cost. In order for the supplier to recover their outlay a charge is then made, usually based on a per unit of heat and/or energy generated, for a set period of years. Again this method would result in reduced fuel bill when compared to gas.
However it is important to note that such a contract would not provide the infrastructure works needed to utilise the Council‟s own fuel source.
Renewable Energy is not an option but a necessity if we are to secure energy supplies that are not in danger of running out. It also has a huge potential, as renewable energy can also be seen to reduce costs as well as contributing to carbon reduction targets.
The UK Government has set a target of 10% of electricity coming from renewable energy by 2010, with an aspiration to double this by 2020. In 2003 only 2.7% of electricity was produced by renewable energies.
There will be an obligation for all areas of the UK to radically increase the use of renewable energies. Through the Draft Regional Spatial Strategy Doncaster is required to produce 10.6MW of electricity from renewable energy by 2010.
Some renewable energies have a proven capability and there is a need to carry out pilot schemes to prove the viability of other renewable sources.
Willow, poplar, miscanthus and other biomass plants/trees can be grown locally, thus reducing the transport miles needed to both process and deliver to boiler sites.
Doncaster Council has a number of Council buildings suitable for conversion and sufficient wood fuel resources from its own silvaculture operations to provide fuel for a number of biomass installations in (depending on the size of the installation) and its officers, from a number of different disciplines, are committed to introducing biomass-fired appliances into Council buildings in order to reduce the Council‟s carbon footprint. Although grant funding is
actively being pursued, to enable both the installation of an appliance and to set up the infrastructure necessary for Doncaster to generate its own fuel supply, the current project will also require investment from DMBC‟s own