Phototheque VEOLIA - Stéphanie Lavoué

2017: Veolia will be operating the largest biomass plant in Ireland

Posted on 19 July 2016.

Mayo Renewable Power is building the largest biomass power plant in Ireland. It has awarded Veolia the contract to operate and maintain what will be an exemplary site.

The Killala biomass plant will operate on the cogeneration principle – producing combined heat and power.

The largest source of renewable energy in Ireland is still wind, but biomass is steadily increasing: up 18.2% between 2002 and 2012 (source Observ'ER 2013). And Veolia Energy Services has thrown its hat into the ring for this biomass challenge in County Mayo, in the northwest of the Republic of Ireland.

Mayo Renewable Power selected Veolia to operate and maintain the plant in Killala, which is currently under construction and will be operational in 2017. Veolia will also manage the adjacent processing plant and fuel storage. The contract, worth €450 million, covers a period of 15 years and is a serious challenge since the 42.5 MW site will be the country’s largest independent biomass plant. The electricity generated will be exported to the national grid - the aim is to supply electricity to some 68,000 homes.

The Killala site will operate on the cogeneration principle - both heat and electricity will be produced from the same raw materials. Veolia will make use of advanced technologies that have proved their worth in Canada - in Merritt and Fort St. James in British Columbia. Making use of wood chips and residues from the forest industry, and here in Ireland, from the local spruce and willow crops. Four tons of wood used as an energy source saves the equivalent of one ton of oil! From living and growing matter, biomass includes organic non-fossilized biological materials. Forestry industry residues can be mixed with organic waste or livestock manure to produce energy. Although biomass emits CO2, in the case of trees it also stores it. Through photosynthesis, trees absorb CO2 and produce oxygen: one ton of wood that is growing is equivalent to half a ton of fixed CO2. The carbon benefit is twofold: at source and when burning the wood.

Biomass, booming in Ireland

In Ireland biomass accounts for 8% of all green energy. However, between 2011 and 2012, the sector made a spectacular leap of 29%. Against this background, the Killala biomass plant has set itself the goal of setting a sustainable development example. It is part of the government’s renewable energy development strategy aimed at complying with the European Directive 2009/28 / EC which targets a threshold of 20% of energy from renewable sources by 2020. In addition to boosting the local economy by creating jobs on the site - 30 for Veolia - the Killala plant is an important part of Ireland's energy transition strategy.