A Chinese group will invest $2.9bn (£2bn) in two biomass plants in Wales designed to produce electricity and grow food at the same time.
China’s SinoFortone Group is backing the projects at Holyhead and Port Talbot, which aim to use waste warm water from biomass power stations to grow king prawns and vegetables with aquaculture and hydroponics.
The projects are being developed by UK firm Orthios Eco Parks, whose 299 MWe biomass plant at Holyhead on the island of Anglesey in the north will feed what it calls the world’s largest on-land prawn hatchery.
In Port Talbot, South Wales, a 350 MWe biomass plant will facilitate a large aquaculture and hydroponics operation.
We have developed a modular, efficient and scalable deliverable solution for food and power production– Dr. Peter Zhang, SinoFortone Group Managing Director
In the Orthios approach, forestry waste is charred by pyrolysis to generate heat to drive steam turbines.
The warm water this produces is channeled into aqua-farms to grow king prawns, while the murky prawn water and the carbon dioxide from the pyrolysis are used as nutrients to grow vegetables.
Orthios says this ‘combined-food-and-power’ approach is environmentally friendly, but also good business because the demand for prawns is rising fast.
It claims that from 2008 to 2012 alone, the value of UK shrimp and prawn consumption rose 48%, from £338m to £500m.
SinoFortone Group Managing Director Dr. Peter Zhang said: "We have developed a modular, efficient and scalable deliverable solution for food and power production.
"With us and the Chinese State as their backers, we are confident we can maximize efficiencies and provide a production facility to deliver this solution around the world. Orthios and SinoFortone are ready to commence the developments now and have planning permissions in place for the projects in two very strategic UK port locations."
The food-and-power plants will create 1,000 jobs in operation and "thousands more during the construction phase", the companies said.
The Holyhead facility could be operational in 2017, while the Port Talbot facility is expected to become operational in three years time.
In Port Talbot Othios and SinoFortone Group are working with Associated British Ports on the proposed project.
With Chinese funding commitment the long-term plan would be to roll out the energy and food production technology globally.
SinoFortone is also investing £3.2bn in a major amusement park at Ebbsfleet, near London.
Photograph: Artist’s render of the planned 299 MWe ‘combined-power-and-food’ plant on Anglesey, North Wales, UK (Orthios Group)