Biomass-fired CHP, district heating project planned in U.K.

By University of East Anglia | January 29, 2015

Homes and businesses in Norwich, England, were recently offered a double energy boost with a proposal to create straw pellet-fired project that would supply heat and power to the community. The £325 million ($489.98 million) project, with a proposed name of Generation Park Norwich, is led by NPH (Norwich) LLP, a partnership which includes the University of East Anglia.

The scheme would feature a low carbon, renewable, clean community energy center that will generate electricity equivalent to the needs of 88,000 homes (more than the number of homes in Norwich). Some electricity will be provided directly to local businesses, the rest will be fed into the National Grid.

The combined-heat-and-power (CHP) project would include a new district heating scheme, distributing heat produced by the new community energy center and offering the prospect of more affordable heating and hot water to thousands of city households, as well as local businesses.

Energy company E.ON would be responsible for the district heating scheme, drawing on decades of experience building and managing similar projects in the U.K. and across Europe.

The community energy center would be fuelled by low carbon straw pellets, sourced from U.K. farms and delivered to the site by rail. The energy unit cannot handle industrial or domestic waste of any form.

The combination of a highly efficient and clean renewable community energy centre with a major district heating scheme is predicted to reduce Norwich’s carbon footprint by more than 22 percent. The range of low carbon initiatives proposed for the project will place Norwich at the forefront of U.K. cities striving for more sustainable ways of living and working.

Around 250 jobs are expected to be created during the construction phase, with a further 500 jobs once the scheme is complete. The project would also be a rich source of skills training for the jobs of the future.

The proposals will be put on show for a first round of public consultation at Norwich City Football Club on Jan. 30 and Jan. 31.

Subject to planning permission, the proposed development would transform the derelict 30-acres utilities site near Norwich railway station into a new amenity for the city, featuring 11 acres of parkland plus new cycle routes and walkways on the banks of the river Wensum.

The brownfield site, adjacent to Crown Point rail depot, has been a gateway for energy supplies and production of power to local homes and businesses for almost a century. It was first earmarked for energy generation from biomass in the city of Norwich local plan in 2004. The continuity of planning policy relating to renewable energy was reaffirmed in the latest Norwich Local Plan adopted at the end of last year, December 2014.

The development features plans for around 120 new low-carbon passivhaus standard homes, including affordable family housing, and student accommodation.

The project would also include a new energy research and development center, exploring sustainable energy and more energy efficient practices. There would also be an education center, open to all, explaining the way the project generates and uses energy, and the impacts, in an engaging and fun way.

These would be led by UEA in collaboration with business partners and other local educational institutes including Norwich University of the Arts and City College Norwich.

Generation Park Norwich would forge the missing link in the existing cycleway and footpath network, with a proposed new crossing over the Norwich to Yarmouth railway line and a new bridge connecting the Utilities Site to the Deal Ground to the south of the river and on to Whitlingham Park.

Project spokesman professor Trevor Davies said, “This is a hugely exciting and visionary scheme for Norwich that meets many needs. It delivers clean green energy as electricity, heating and hot water, whilst rejuvenating an eyesore site close to the city center.”

Davies continued, “The city has already established itself as a leading force in responding to the threat of climate change thanks to the UEA’s research in climate sciences, environmental sciences and sustainable development, as well as its leading-edge carbon reduction projects.”

“This exemplar project will continue to draw on the UEA’s renowned expertise in these areas, as well as in other relevant fields such as engineering. Generation Park Norwich will be a powerhouse of ideas and innovation.”

Jeremy Bungey, head of community energy at E.ON, said, “This project sets out a bold statement of intent to generate energy for Norwich, in Norwich, developing a lower carbon heating and power source and at the same time revitalizing a former energy generation site.

“Similar projects, where cities and communities take greater control over how their energy is generated and how it is consumed, are commonplace in places such as Sweden, frequently listed as one of the world’s greenest countries. The concept could be a model for making British cities equally sustainable by meeting the triple challenge of keeping energy secure, affordable and lower carbon.”

The Generation Park Norwich proposal is in the development stage, with a planning application scheduled for summer 2015 after a full public consultation. If planning permission is granted work could commence in 2016 with a target date for opening the first phase in 2018.