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SEM Chart of the Week

2020

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Burnin’ up: Fuelling the transition

Cathal Ryan
Cathal Ryan

With peat and coal coming fully off line over the next few years, the future of Bord na Mona’s Edenderry power plant is uncertain. Reliably sourcing sustainable and local biomass is something that Bord Na Móna have worked hard to do since they began co-firing peat with biomass at their Edenderry station in 2007. This week’s chart looks at the true supply chain of biomass in Ireland and the potential for growth as we move to low carbon electricity generation.

I’m slipping into the Lava

Large dispatchable thermal assets in Ireland are ageing with the development pipeline reasonably thin. Despite the progress made into a more decentralised grid, there is still a significant requirement for dispatchable assets to back up the grid when renewables are not generating power. In the same manner that the Irish Government historically subsidised Peat fired power plants for security of supply reasons, is there to be a case made for Biomass?

Who turned the temperature hotter

Bord na Móna source a large amount of biomass from Coillte where they utilise the shavings from the forest floor and from their sawmills. The plant sources organic residues and ‘waste’ material from other large industry to fuel their co-firing of Edenderry. This means the fuel supply chain is not in competition for high grade timber, where prices are significantly higher and commercially non-viable for a biomass fired station.

A common misconception with sourcing Biomass is that biomass used for electricity generation is in competition with the biomass pellets for heating, particularly for the infamous RHI scheme up in NI or the SSRH in IE, but those pellets are produced specifically for heating applications.

Cause I’m burnin’ up, burnin up

The SEAI have optimistic projections for biomass potential in Ireland, seeing a potential growth from 10 Mtoe to over 31 Mtoe that could be recovered by 2030.  With Bord na Mona’s Planning on their Edenderry plant running to 2023, the potential to extend the life of Edenderry is to transition fully to biomass and utilise the existing rail infrastructure that exists at the plant to transport biomass to the site. To move to a zero-carbon electricity system, solutions like this will play a part in our short to medium term transition while zero-carbon alternatives are found.

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