Biomass Plant Blaze Burns UK Renewable Energy Capacity

A fire  last Monday damaged Europe’s largest biomass plant  and took off line 10 percent of the UK’s renewable energy capacity.

Some 120 firefighters battled the fire over 15 hours; one firefighter described it as the worst he had seen in 20 years. The fire broke out on Monday morning at the plant, 30 miles east of London; no injuries were reported. The cause of the fire is believed to be a spark from machinery. Biomass plants generate carbon-neutral electricity by burning organic matter  (plant-based waste.)

The plant had been converted from coal power to biomass late last year; otherwise it would have been slated for closure under European Union regulations. It generates energy with almost no carbon emissions by burning wooden pellets made from sawdust and other waste from manufactured wood.

Bloomberg News quotes a bioenergy analyst, Claire Curry, “If biomass is stored in large volumes, with little aeration, it is very likely to catch fire as it can get very hot. Normally biomass plants will pass streams of cool air through the biomass to avoid fires happening.”

Biomass plants are coming into operation across the UK as it strives to meet the EU goal of deriving 20 percent of energy from renewable sources by 2020. Energy from renewable sources accounted for 6.8 percent of British energy in 2010, with biomass contributing the second highest amount after offshore wind power.

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Image from YouTube video uploaded by Essex Fire Department

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Sandi C.
Sandi C.3 years ago


Sue H.
Sue H.3 years ago

So sad, but we learn something from every mistake we make. If we are smart enough we never make the same mistake again.

Hartson Doak
Hartson Doak3 years ago

I once used my lawn clippings to cook my potatoes. I piled the cut grass and wrapped the potatoes in foil and placed them in the pile. 12 hours later, when I went back, the potatoes were cooked. Run pipes through the organics and preheat the water that is used to make the stream or use it to heat the buildings.It does get cold in the UK.

Wende Anne Maunder
Wendé Maunder3 years ago

What a terrible thing! Biomass is SUCH a good idea Let us just hope that future plants learn from this tragedy and install cooling equipment to prevent this ever happening again.

Howard C.
.3 years ago

It is sad to see something that was doing some good lost, albeit for a while. I live in the UK (in England), we are shortly to get a bio-mass (straw), purpose build, power station near where I live. Additionally we have seen a number of wind farms, I live in the East Midlands which is pretty flat and therefore quite windy. For my part I have had solar panels fitted to my property, these produce nearly a third of the electricity I use. All in all these are just little 'penny-packets' but ever little helps.

Sonya Armenia Redfield

This was not good news for us in the UK !

KS Goh
KS Goh3 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Parvez Zuberi
Parvez Zuberi3 years ago

Very sad news hope they can rebuild it

Joe F.
Joe F.3 years ago

A number of older coal burning plants are being closed. Why not adapt them to burn biomass? Have the electric companies even looked into something like this? Do they feel it's not profitable to do so? We're letting the opportunity just slip through our hands. If the UK can do it then surely we should be able to.

Robert Hardy
Robert Hardy3 years ago

What a loss.