The giant power and appliances group GE has been chosen by a recent Belgian start-up to design and build the world’s biggest biomass power station: a $358m, 215MW unit in the Flemish city of Ghent.
New company Belgian Eco Energy (BEE) picked GE Steam Power Systems to provide the overall design and construction of the plant, and to supply machinery.
Michael Corten, the chief executive of BEE (pictured), said: "We are pleased to work with GE on this project and with their approach to focus on optimising the technical solution for this plant. GE’s technology will help us reach the highest net efficiency, reduce operational costs."
On the one hand because our country has become increasingly dependent in recent years on power imports from abroad. But also because we will only need government support for the first 15 years. Thereafter Bee Power Ghent will be able to support itself for another 30 years– Michael Corten, BEE chief executive
BEE says the plant, which will be entirely fuelled by wood chips and agricultural waste, will use a circulated fluidised bed boiler, a relatively new technology that has the advantage of releasing few pollutants into the environment. The boiler was originally developed by French company Alstom, which GE acquired along with the firm’s power and grid divisions in 2015.
An Alstom video explaining how it works can be seen here.
BEE says the plant will reach 60% efficiency when operating in combined heat and power mode. The heat will be used to provide 110MW of thermal energy to a district heating system.
The successful launch of the Ghent project represents a considerable achievement for BEE, which began in 2010 as a start up in the garage of its chief executive. The proposal to build the scheme was first announced in July 2014.
Corten said he expected the scheme would have no difficulty in obtaining a licence. "The key is it’s in a heavy industrial area with relatively little habitation. Moreover, we will not send additional trucks on the road: all biomass is transported by ship. We will also emit very clean air.
"Finally, we have the full support of the authorities. On the one hand because our country has become increasingly dependent in recent years on power imports from abroad. But also because we will only need government support for the first 15 years. Thereafter Bee Power Ghent will be able to support itself for another 30 years."
The facility is expected to become operational in 2019, when it will contribute to Belgium’s efforts to reduce 20% cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 compared with 1990 levels.
Photograph: Michael Corten is a power industry professional who began BEE in his garage. (Belgian Eco Energy)