Biomass is often used as a supplemental feedstock for existing coal-fired power stations. The technology required to obtain power from biomass is fairly conventional: storage and handling of the feedstock, a boiler to generate steam, a turbine to turn a generator that produces electricity and low grade heat as a by-product.
Feedstock includes chipped or pelleted wood-type products produced from waste wood, managed forests and crops of willow or elephant grass, as well as a range of crop-waste such as straw, seed husks and coconut residue.
The location of plants tends to be near to grid connections and crops. For example, Eco2 Limited uses straw as a feedstock and will construct a number of plants in East Anglia.
Drax Power Limited, part of Drax Group plc, is planning a number of biomass projects to replace coal use at the company's coal-fired power plant near Selby and other new locations. The company will use willow and elephant grass grown near the power station.
Renewable Energy Systems Limited is proposing to construct a plant adjacent to port facilities at the Port of Blyth that will enable feedstock to be transported easily.
Although there are a relatively large number of proposed plants, growth is likely to be limited by the availability and overall cost of the feedstock. For example, some plants rely on chipped wood being transported from timber mills in North America, while perhaps more sustainable solutions will use feedstock from locally managed Scottish forests.