Biomass project checklist

Here is information about the planning and regulatory requirements for a biomass project and a project checklist which covers some of the more technical aspects of biomass.

Planning and regulatory requirements

Building level scale

There are few restrictions for biomass at the building scale if the fuel is clean wood chip. There are a number of wood fuel heating products that are eligible for smoke control zones.

Since April 2008, the flues of wood burning appliances have been classed as permitted development except in conservation areas, World Heritage Sites and in listed buildings. However, the council should be consulted if the flue is likely to extend 1m or more above the height of your roof, or is to be installed on the principal elevation visible from a road.

Construction of a separate boiler house and fuel store is likely to require planning permission.

There may be restrictions on the installation of biomass boilers in old or unusual buildings (for example, listed buildings). In such cases consultation with the local planning authority is necessary.

Community and large industrial scale

At these larger scales, planning permission is required. Where the installation is a part of a new development, details of the installation need to be submitted as part of the overall planning application.

Applications for dedicated biomass plants with capacities >50MWe are not determined by the local planning process. They need to obtain development consent from the Secretary of State. The application needs to be submitted to the Infrastructure Planning Commission (at a future date this will be replaced by the Major Infrastructure Planning Unit).

Given the emissions to water, air and by-products associated with biomass energy generation, environmental regulations apply including:

  • air quality control regulations
  • water quality control regulations
  • landfill regulations.

All scales

Space requirements Securing fuel supply for the long term is critical, particularly for larger scale installations. Plant owners and or operators are entering into long term contracts with suppliers.
System size System size is determined mainly by the heat demand of the end user. Oversizing a system leads to heat dumping while an undersized unit would require backup using non-renewable fuels. System sizing is more complex for combined heat and power applications.

Single building

Space requirements A typical detached house would require roughly 7m 3 of pellets or 21-35m 3 of wood chip weighing between 5-10 tonnes, depending on moisture content.
There needs to be sufficient space to store this fuel and keep it dry. Space is also needed to accommodate the boiler and fuel hopper - about double the space required by an oil boiler.
All biomass systems require a flue.
Air quality control If the site is located in a smokeless zone, then wood can only be burnt in certain exempted appliances.
Suitable ventilation flue A vent is required which is specifically designed for wood fuel appliances, with sufficient air movement for proper operation of the stove. Existing chimneys can be fitted with a lined flue, which is relatively inexpensive.

Community and large scale

Proximity to the customer In a district heating setting, the plant needs to be located close to the end user to reduce the cost of installing pipework and heat losses.
Impact of or on development phasing Development phasing has implications for system sizing particularly where a large development is phased over a long period (for example, 10 years). In such cases it is necessary to determine for which phases the system will be sized for. An alternative would be to have several smaller units which are installed at the completion of each phase.
Electricity grid connection An application would need to be submitted to the distribution network operator (DNO) for grid connection.
The site needs to be located in proximity to a grid connection point to reduce the cost of cabling.
Space requirements Space requirements vary depending on the technology employed, but are driven mainly by onsite fuel storage requirements. For example:
  • a 500kW wood pellet boiler unit has a footprint of 15m 2
  • a 25MW biomass scheme would require 40,500m 2
  • for anaerobic digestion, approximately 300-400m 2 required for every 1,000 tonnes of digestate a year.
  • a 300MW gasification plant would require approximately 25,500m 2
Odour For anaerobic digestion plants, odour can be a nuisance for adjacent properties. Measures need to be put in place to reduce odour (for example, cleaning any gas emissions before they are released into the atmosphere).
Gas handling Given that gas produced by anaerobic digestion, pyrolysis and gasification processes will be stored on site it will be necessary to ensure that gas handling standards and regulations are adhered to.
Feedstock contamination The anaerobic digestion process is particularly sensitive to contamination by substances that kill the bacteria used in the process (for example, preservatives).
It is necessary to ensure that feedstock does not include non-organic material.

Page published December 2010.

1 May 2012

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