Monday, 15 June 2015
Biomass - To convert or not to convert
With huge surplus generating capacity already in this country, it was announced last week that we are to build a brand new biomass plant in Mayo with capacity of 42.5MW. It is costing € 180 million to build it compared to a gas plant which costs just over two times as much but provides ten and a half times as much electricity output. (The 445MW Whitegate gas plant cost € 400 million to build in 2010).
This works out at a capital cost of €4.2 million per MW output for the biomass plant compared to just € 900,000 per MW for the gas plant i.e it costs nearly 5 times as much to build a biomass plant than a modern CCGT plant.
As usual, economist Colm McCarthy is spot on in his analysis :
We have three peat plants and a coal power station that could be converted to biomass (Edenderry is partly converted already). The biomass route to meeting our targets is better than wind as it provides dispatchable power, but it makes much more economic and engineering sense to convert these existing plants rather than adding more capacity. Converting Moneypoint (which has 855MW capacity) would cost approx € 380 million according to BW Energy. This works out at a capital investment of €0.4 million per MW compared to Killala's € 4.2 million per MW i.e. it costs over 10 times more to build a new biomass plant than it does to convert an existing power station. Also, with the conversion of Moneypoint, higher emitting coal gets displaced, whereas the Mayo plant will be displacing "cleaner" gas.
So it's a no brainer - we should be converting Moneypoint, not building new capacity.