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UEA’s Straw Burning Plant In Jeopardy

December 1, 2015

By Paul Homewood 


h/t Dave Ward  




I have previously reported on the proposed straw burning plant in Norwich, which has been consistently championed by the UEA. It now appears to be struggling to find investors and to be on the verge of liquidation.

The Norwich Evening News reports:


Developers behind a controversial £370m energy park on the edge of Norwich have admitted they are facing serious problems in finding investors.

However, the board revealed it is working with an insolvency practitioner to “work out the best arrangement” for existing creditors. It is understood steps are being taken which would avoid liquidation.

In a statement, the developers said: “Norwich Powerhouse LLP regrets to announce that the company has faced difficulties securing investment for Generation Park Norwich. Current uncertainty over national support for green energy has meant Generation Park Norwich has become less attractive to private investors.

“The board of NPH is currently working with an insolvency practitioner to work out the best arrangement for creditors.

“Generation Park Norwich remains an excellent vision for the city that would make Norwich an exemplar of green, renewable energy.”

A spokesman said the problems had not been caused by an investor pulling out and there were talks over other possible investment.

Backed by the University of East Anglia, which has put £2.25m into the project, and energy company Eon, which has put in £1.4m, the park is due to include a straw pellet-burning plant.

That would generate electricity for major power users and heat for businesses and houses via a district heating network run by Eon. It is understood Eon is preparing a commercial proposition to ensure the scheme can continue.

An Eon spokesman said: “We believe Generation Park Norwich is a viable renewables project that will add to the region’s energy mix, but the current financial difficulties being faced are a sign of the economic uncertainties affecting this market. We remain committed to continue to provide support and assistance where we can to help develop this project.”

A UEA spokesman said: “The university is disappointed that the Generation Park Norwich project has been facing funding challenges.

“We hope that Norwich Powerhouse will reach an acceptable arrangement with creditors, and that ongoing discussions with potential investors are productive.

“UEA’s financial investment ended more than two years ago after fostering the early stages of development.

“As one of the project’s three founding partners, we are supportive of this process and keen to make our own fair contribution to creditors or to any refinancing plan.”

Along with the energy plant, the development would include 120 new homes, student accommodation, an education centre, a research base, 11 acres of parkland, plus new cycle routes and walkways.

A new bridge would also be built over the river, connecting the site to the nearby Deal Ground.

Supporters say it would be a shot in the arm for the region’s economy and put the city at the forefront of tackling climate change.

But the proposal, with its 90m-tall chimney, has drawn criticism, with concerns over the environmental and visual impact on the surrounding area once the 30-acre development is built.

Campaigners, including from the group Say No To Generation Park have expressed concerns about possible pollution from the plant.

The developers have always said the height of the chimney would mean emissions would be at a very high level, dispersed far away from the city.

Last month Broadland District councillors, who are being consulted on the plan, decided to defer their decision, saying they needed more information on the environmental impact of the plume which will come out of the chimney.

And Norwich City Council, which, along with the Broads Authority, would have to grant planning permission before the scheme could go ahead, has commissioned its own independent expert advice on air quality to help it in determining the planning application.

More than 250 people have objected to the proposal.


My initial thoughts:

1) I wonder why the artist’s impression does not have black smoke coming out of it?

2) Complaints about uncertainty over national support for green energy , are a cop out. There was never any suggestion that the project would be subsidised by government.

3) The UEA have a particular duty to explain how and why they have put at risk £2.25m into the project. The clear impression is that they have put ideology ahead of proper economic judgement.

4) The fundamental problem, that the scheme faces, is the same as the one that affects the biomass plant at St Andrews University. Neither operation is as cost effective as conventional methods using coal or gas.



As an aside, one commenter at the Evening News states:


Company details of Norwich Powerhouse LLP are publicly available & rather interestingly UEA NPH Ltd whose registered address is The Registry at the UEA is listed as a current director & has been since 19 October 2009. So directly, or at arms length via a UEA company, the UEA is clearly currently involved in Norwich Powerhouse LLP at board level.

UEA have questions to answer.

  1. A C Osborn permalink
    December 1, 2015 6:59 pm

    Paul, even more madness here about Lynemouth power station given the go ahead to convert to Wood Pellets.

  2. December 1, 2015 7:39 pm

    Isn’t it amazing how they manage to describe a dirty polluting power station as an energy park? We have wind farms, wins parks, solar farms, solar parks, solar eco parks – is anybody fooled? Even waste incinerators are known energy from waste facilities.

  3. December 1, 2015 8:40 pm

    On my recent holiday, we passed next to a power-from-waste-burning plant near Hanoi. Unbelievably polluting – surrounded by smoke haze. Only possibly because local people don’t get much of a say in that part of the east.

  4. Graeme No.3 permalink
    December 1, 2015 9:29 pm

    Finance for green playthings has dried up. The end is in sight.

  5. John Moore. permalink
    December 2, 2015 9:55 am

    Straw is not a waste product it has to be purchased by cattle rearers who winter their stock in barns; and is sometimes scarce and expensive.

    • December 2, 2015 3:50 pm

      There is much more straw produced than is required by livestock farmers in most years. The most of the surplus is chopped by combine harvesters and returned to the soil. This returns large quantities of minerals, notably potash, and very importantly organic matter. It is this organic matter that has been reducing in arable soils. Burning excess straw in power stations would be detrimental to the long term health of the soils.

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