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.


  1. I think that if there were doubters reading this blog, doubting that out government could get it so wrong, this latest announcement will dispel any doubts. For those who now realise just how ridiculous our electricity service has become, it is a matter of mentally coping with this departure from reason and doing the little we can to try slow down its progress. There is an official obsession with generating electricity. No matter whether its needed now or in the future. Any idea, even the daydreams of simpletons, with absolutely no engineering background trump those calling from the roof tops to stop. I agree it is corruption, but its so crazy there may be another force at play. Electricity cannot be touched, put in a bag, eaten tasted smelled and has no weight. Uneducated people are conditioned to quantifying things which can be felt, touched, weighted, eaten and put in a bag and they assume the same applies to electricity. Those among them who have any brains at all must realise that as the price increases home generation will catch on. Their answer to that is to put a carbon tax on fuel thereby making it more expensive to home generate.

  2. Your figures for gas capital cost are a bit out of date. It could be built for 250 million at today's prices.

    1. Thanks Tim, I will amend the article, may I publish your qualifications ?