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Biomass company tackles council concerns

A biomass company has met with an Edinburgh councillor to try to allay fears over particulate emissions raised by the city’s environmental health officers regarding two high profile projects.

The council has just forced developer D H Torphichen Street Ltd to drop plans to install a biomass boiler at a six storey mixed use development in the city centre. The developer will now install photovoltaic panels on the roof to boost the scheme’s sustainable credentials.

As H&V News reported in February the council has already put on hold proposals to install biomass boilers in seven schools due to worries about air quality in the city.

Wood Energy Ltd is not involved in either scheme, but met with Green representative Cllr Alison Johnstone on Friday to try to highlight the abatement technology available.

Dan Gates, Wood Energy Ltd’s development manager in Scotland, said he wanted to make the council aware of the options: “We are already working with several councils in Scotland including Angus and Highland. Edinburgh is the only council where there is this issue.

“We have got commercially available abatement technology which can reduce particulate rates down to lower than a gas boiler.

“If councillors are not sure about emissions we can provide guarantees according to the emission levels they want.”

Cllr Johnstone, who has called on the council to rethink its stance and take action on traffic, said: “I will be writing to those within the council who take these decisions to make sure they have the correct information at their fingertips.

“There appears to be abatement technology available which can ensure that emissions are at least equivalent to a conventional gas boiler.

“If the council sorted out the general air quality issues in the city centre then we would not have this problem with biomass.”

The council report on the Torphichen Street development said: “The site is located within the Council’s Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) which has been declared due to failure to meet targets for nitrogen dioxide. The aim within this area is to sustain improvement to air quality.

“The installation of biomass over existing fuel sources such as natural gas is counter to the principles of the AQMA.”

Despite concerns over emissions in built up areas in cities such as Edinburgh the Government continues to be extremely keen to investigate the full potential of biomass as a renewable fuel on a commercial scale.

This week, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs launched an information report titled ‘Waste Wood – the untapped resource for biomass fuel’ which looks to divert waste wood away from landfill and encourage the development of energy and heat recovery facilities.

Mr Gates said the move was welcome, but the issue had to be approached carefully.

He said: “It is a really important issue as these kind of facilities are common place in Europe.

“However, it is about picking the right technology. It is well proven technology, but it becomes a very complex issue. It lends itself to larger boilers and larger heat loads.

“With landfill tax now £42 a tonne it makes a lot of sense to look at this alternative. It is good to see the problem of renewable heat and heating has finally started to rise up the policy agenda.”