Monday, March 23, 2009

Green energy/waste plans in and around Bristol

Big money for green energy and waste management?

Things are moving in the renewable energy and recycling field, including locally with projects worth a possible £2bn in and around the Avonmouth area of Bristol. These would apparently be paid for by commercial investors and could, if the local, regional and particularly the national energy and waste strategies and mix of technologies is right, contribute towards making Bristol much greener – as well as creating many jobs. At this stage though the £2 billion investment figure is somewhat speculative, though may turn out to be a reasonable estimate from those in the know!

The Bristol's Environmental Technology and Services Sector project (BETS) established about three years ago to really get environmental technologies and services going in Bristol and the surrounding area are of course intimately involved in all this. After all BETS are all about: encouraging and facilitating networking and cooperation projects within the sector for business innovation and growth, including provision of better market intelligence; knowledge transfer; access to finance; training and marketing support, and appropriate sites and premises; harnessing the strengths and achievements of the sector for the wider marketing and promotion of Bristol for investment and regeneration; raising the public profile and promoting products, services and benefits on a local, national and international scale.

BETS are saying that nine different projects are proposed in and around Avonmouth, including 'green' power stations and recycling/waste operations. Full details of all these are not yet publicly available – its likely that debate will surround just how green some projects actually are. This is where energy and waste strategies, and technology assessment are crucial and will be in the spotlight.

We do know that Bristol City Council wants to build two wind turbines and Wessex Water four wind turbines. The Port of Bristol already has three wind turbines and may want two or three more. There are at least three proposals around for biomass power stations burning such fuels as woodchip, along with some interesting ideas for combined heat and power (where ‘waste’ heat is circulated and put to some use). The viability of this at Avonmouth needs looking into - can the heat be efficiently used there?? How?? Then there are a number of possible ‘energy from waste’ proposals, from pyrolysis/gasification or ‘waste cooking’ plants to conventional mass incineration with energy recovery (electricity generation). Mass burning and other heat treatment of waste is very controversial. The nature and origins of any biomass fuels used should is also a crucial green consideration (

There are claims that Bristol is leading the green development agenda and could position itself as the so-called ‘green-collar capital’. There will be ongoing debate about how the scale of green investment matches the scale of the economic, climate and energy security problems though, with some calling for very large ‘green new deal’ plans to create an entirely different kind of economy and society out of the entwined economic and environmental chaos we now have.

In many ways the Avonmouth area is a good one for many of these energy and waste projects due to the accessibility to the port and to materials. Whether there are sufficient businesses and homes in the area to make best use of the Bristol City Council proposed grid to harness the heat generated from the various ‘green’ projects is an uncertainty. There may be far better locations for such good ideas and we need to think things through to ensure the overall strategy and technology mix give the best total net benefits. A lot of heat can be generated from several projects, should they come to fruition in difficult economic times. The potential is there to tackle two birds with one stone by generating genuinely clean, renewable energy and managing wastes efficiently within a low waste strategy, and generating loads of jobs in the process.