Four years after its closure, Ence has “resurrected” the Elcogás thermal plant giving it a new use. The company headed by Ignacio Colmenares, has become the first company to transform a coal-fired thermal power plant located in Spain into a renewable energy generation plant with biomass. The new facility, inaugurated on January 9, becomes the eighth biomass plant for Ence. Follow all the news of the energy sector in the Energy Economist
This type of project, considered by the company as a “magnificent example of contribution to the just energy transition”, becomes a sustainable solution to give a second life to the dozens of coal plants that will no longer be operational in our country in June of this year, having not undertaken the necessary investments in denitrification to reduce the impact of its polluting emissions, according to the regulations of large combustion facilities.
The truth is that some of its owners, such as Endesa, have been analyzing the possibility of using biomass in two of its plants to avoid its closure: As Pontes (A Coruña) and Carboneras (Almería). However, as they point out from the electricity company, the results have not been satisfactory, which, for the moment, makes this option unfeasible. But what requirements are needed for this type of plant to replicate the Ence project?
The first thing to do, says Felipe Torroba, General Director of Energy at Ence, “is to identify if there is sufficient biomass potential in the area where the facility to be converted is located.” It is true that in some countries like the United Kingdom, some companies such as the English Drax, have been making complete reconversion of coal to biomass for several years. However, Torroba points out, “this seems an aberration.”
The biomass consumed by these plants (mainly pellets) is brought from the US and, to produce it, we must use wood that has other uses of greater added value. In fact, explains the head of Energy of Ence, “we were seeing opportunities to invest in biomass projects in the United Kingdom, but all we saw (both new plants and to convert) were based on importing biomass from South America or North America and, to us, that doesn’t seem sustainable. ”
In his opinion, “that sensitivity of using local biomass in other parts of the world is not being applied. The same does not happen in our case.” Previous analyzes carried out at the Elcogás plant before its acquisition, located in Puertollano (Ciudad Real), indicated that the amount of biomass available was sufficient to power a 50 MW plant, which is the power that Biollano has, the name it receives the new installation (the original installation had 320 MW).
The plant, which has been built in a record time of 16 months, will consume around 238,000 tons per year of biomass, mainly from agricultural by-products: 50% of pomace and 50% between vine shoots, pruning of olive groves and woody forest and agricultural remains , which will allow a strong reduction of uncontrolled burning of agricultural stubble. The use of this type of biomass will allow the plant to produce about 325,000 MWh of electricity per year, equivalent to the energy needs of more than 60,000 people. All this biomass, says Torroba, “complies with the Decalogue for the Sustainability of Biomass as a Fuel of Ence, a pioneering initiative that prevents us from using fuel that is outside a certain range of action.”