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Monday28 July 2014

Heatherwick fires up plans for Stockton power plant

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Designer Thomas Heatherwick is working on plans for a £150 million, 49 megawatt biomass power plant in Stockton-on-Tees, north-east England

The plans, which are for biomass power company Bio Energy Investments (BEI), were unveiled to local residents in Stockton this week. They mark the first time a high-profile designer has been appointed to help create a biomass power station.

The project, which is still in design development, will feature offices and landscaping, and visitor access to the plant will be central to the brief.

The plant will occupy a brownfield site on the banks of the river Tees, where an existing wharf will be used for all fuel deliveries.

Thomas Heatherwick

“We have an opportunity to make new power buildings to fit this age”

Thomas Heatherwick

The area around Stockton and neighbouring Middlesbrough already houses one working biomass power plant, and two more, by Gaia Power and MGT Power, have planning permission.

“Over recent decades we have neglected the cultural contribution industrial infrastructure can make to our society,” said Heatherwick. “Now, with the impetus of alternative energy production, we have an opportunity to make new power buildings updated to fit this age.

“It is exciting to be working with BEI to redefine this type of building and celebrate energy production again.”

Biomass power plants, which burn wood chip or pellets of specially farmed crops, have been met with a mixed reaction by green lobbyists, many of whom are worried about the use of farmland for fuel production and the emissions created by transporting and burning the fuel.

Earlier this week, global warming protesters from Climate Camp Cymru were removed by police after scaling a biomass power plant in Port Talbot, Wales.

Ben Humphries, an associate at green practice Architype Associates, expressed concerns about the viability of the power source.

“The whole notion of a biomass power station is a bit odd,” he said. “The carbon footprint is less than coal or oil but the supply of fuel is a big issue. And there are cleaner forms of energy.

“Councils in London are already starting to turn down developments with biomass boilers because the air quality is going down.”

An outline planning application for Heatherwick’s scheme is due to be submitted at the end of this month.

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