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ESB explores Irish peat-to-biomass power station conversions

Ireland-headed energy majors, Electricity Supply Board (ESB) has held a public consultation about its plans to convert its peat-fired power stations at Lanesborough and Shannonbridge to sustainable biomass on a phased basis.

Mick Cahill (Bord na Móna), Kevin Harte Bord na Móna), Paul Riordan (Bord na Móna) with Minister for Environment Denis Naughten, ESB’s John O’Connor and Paul Cullen (photo courtesy Michelle Ghee).

According to local media reports, a public consultation was recently held in Lanesborough to offer information about ESB’s plans to convert its power stations at Lanesborough (Lough Ree Power) and Shannonbridge (West Offaly Power) from peat to “sustainable biomass” on a phased basis.

Assuming the appropriate planning permissions are secured and the business case for investment is made with minimal interventions, ESB will use the existing generation infrastructure to immediately transition to cleaner renewable energy by reducing peat intake and replacing it with biomass.

It is planned that the transition to biomass would initially be fuelled by both indigenous and imported sustainable biomass but, as local farmers’ crops mature, it is anticipated that the indigenous supply chain will displace the requirement for imported fuels.

The peat is supplied to the ESB by Bord na Móna (BnM), the Irish semi-state peat resource and power utility company that also operates its own 128 MWe power station at Edenderry that co-fires peat and biomass.

In March 2017, BnM revealed that it was looking into the feasibility of developing its own wood pellet production in the US southeast as part of its EUR 1.2 billion investment programme – tentatively a 300 000 tonnes-per-annum facility in Washington, Georgia according to sources in the US.

However, early this month, BnM said that following technical and commercial assessments, it will not proceed further with plans to “directly develop” a US-based biomass pellet plant. Instead has opted to proceed with a “broadly based” biomass supply chain with imports supplementing Irish supply in the short to medium term.

About ESB thermal generation

ESB has currently 12 thermal power generating stations located across Ireland and the UK using coal, gas, heavy fuel oil (HFO), peat and biomass. The latter, Tilbury Green Power, a 40 MWe waste wood-fired power station in the Port of Tilbury, Essex, UK is under commissioning.

 

The two milled-peat fired power stations are both located on the banks of the River Shannon in Ireland – Lough Ree Power is a 100 MWe station located next to the village of Lanesborough, Co. Longford and West Offaly Power is a 135 MWe station located at Shannonbridge, Co. Offaly. Both were commissioned in 2004 and both have the peat supplied by Bord Na Móna.

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