Where Biomass is Used
Around the world, sustainable microgrids are emerging as a vital tool in the fight against climate change and natural disasters. In the wake of hurricanes, earthquakes and wildfires, traditional energy grids struggle to keep the power flowing, causing outages that slow local economies and put lives at risk.
Where is Biomass Used?
Biomass in the UK
The United Kingdom is the 5th biggest producer of biomass energy, behind China, Brazil, India and the USA (1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th respectively). In 2020, the UK produced 5,393 MW of biomass energy – 12% of the country’s total electricity production. It is the country’s second biggest source of renewable energy. (IRENA, 2021)
The biggest source of renewable energy in the UK is wind power, which contributes over 25% of all electricity supplied in the country. Biomass will ideally serve as a key backup to wind power.
As of December 2021, the UK government has announced that £26 million will be invested in biomass, to power British homes and businesses. In a press release, they called biomass a ‘key component in the UK’s commitment to tackle climate change’ (Gov.uk, 2021).
This funding will help to support development of new technologies and solutions to make biomass even more sustainable, versatile and efficient. They aim to increase usage of biomass materials such as grass, seaweed, algae and hemp as innovative new fuels.
These plans are integral to the government’s proposal of reaching net-zero emissions by the year 2050. They will be part of a mix of renewable energy sources, filling in gaps where wind and solar cannot fully satisfy demand.
The UK’s Climate Change Committee has stated that ‘sustainable bioenergy is essential for reaching net zero’ (Biomass UK, 2021).
There are 25 biomass-related projects running in the UK, each of which has already received a share of £4 million of government funding. These projects include both start-up businesses and independent, family-run companies, as well as research institutes and university faculties. This next level of funding is intended to take these biomass projects out of the ‘design stage’, and accelerate their commercial viability.
Among these biomass projects is the Biomass Feedstocks Innovation Programme, which aims to focus on domestic biomass materials rather than relying on foreign import sources. This programme will help make the biomass industry more resilient, and contribute heavily to the UK’s rural economies. It will provide employment, and encourage private investment in biomass, as well as helping the country along to its net-zero carbon goal.
The Biomass Feedstocks Innovation Programme is a part of the Net Zero Innovation Portfolio, a £1 billion government program that aims to fast-track low-carbon technologies over the next two decades.
Biomass UK is an organisation that represents 200 British biomass generators, suppliers and contractors. As part of the UK’s Association for Renewable Energy and Clean Technology (REA), their members provide approximately 8% of Britain’s total electricity production (Biomass UK, 2021). This organisation works to promote biomass energy to the British public, providing a wider understanding of biomass and its environmental benefits. They achieve this by working together with the government, media companies, and academia.
Biomass Plants in Sheffield
Sheffield is home to a biomass power station, Blackburn Meadows, close to the Meadowhall area. Also nearby is the Templeborough biomass power station in Rotherham, approximately 5 miles (8km) from Sheffield city centre.
Constructed at a cost of £150 million, Templeborough Power Station opened in 2018, constructed on the former site of one of South Yorkshire’s world-famous steelworks. It has an operating capacity of 44 megawatts. Part of its facilities allow for the processing of biomass into pellets, for more efficient use as fuel.
Additionally, there are ongoing plans for another biomass power station in the Holbrook area of Sheffield, intended to bring power to over 10,000 local homes. This station will be operated by the contractor Veolia. It will recycle around 55,000 tonnes of waste wood from local sources into carbon-neutral biomass energy (Veolia, 2015).
The city of Sheffield plans to go carbon-neutral by 2030 – much earlier than the UK-wide goal of 2050. Sheffield’s biomass facilities will play a crucial part in achieving this, and setting a forward-thinking example for other cities and local authorities around the country.