The UK's biggest power station is officially launching a biomass facility today.
Energy Secretary Ed Davey will open new systems at the huge Drax power station near Selby, which will receive, store and distribute sustainable biomass to support the plant's first converted biomass electricity generation unit.]
Drax was built as a massive coal-fired power station but is mid-way through a £700m project to convert three of its six generating units to burn biomass. The first has been running successfully on sustainable biomass since the beginning of April, the company said, and it has already burnt a million tonnes of the fuel
The second is planned to come online next year and the third in 2016 and Drax says each converted unit will provide enough renewable electricity to meet the needs of more than a million homes.
The firm says biomass can deliver carbon savings of around 80 per cent relative to coal as all of the biomass used is sustainable, which also protects biodiversity and prevents deforestation. Most of it is grown in sustainable forests in the United States.
Drax chief executive Dorothy Thompson said: "Today marks the transformation not just of our power station, but of our whole business. I am enormously proud of the team at Drax.
"The facilities being opened today are a unique feat of engineering and remarkably they have been delivered at an operational power station which the country depends on to deliver 7-8% of the power we need.
"This fundamental change has implications far beyond Drax and even our supply chain. Sustainable biomass has a critical role in the UK's electricity mix.
"It is the only renewable which can deliver low-carbon electricity on demand, at the scale the grid needs and precisely when it's needed. It is also a low-cost renewable which will help to manage the expense of the UK's transition to a low-carbon economy."
Davey said: "Today is a real landmark for Drax and for Britain's energy security. Drax's ambitious plans have made it one of Europe's biggest renewable generators, helping to increase our green energy supplies.
"In August we announced challenging and tough sustainability criteria for biomass, and we'll be monitoring the sector against those standards."
Drax Power Station is the largest power station in Britain and the country's biggest single emitter of carbon dioxide, but the firm said it is already the cleanest and most efficient coal-fired power station in the UK and the conversion of three of its six generating units to sustainable biomass will see its emissions reduced by around 10 million tonnes.
The project has cost around £650m to £700m and has involved more than 5,000 contractors this year. As part of the operation being opened today, the firm has invested in 200 bespoke railway wagons which will start to deliver biomass to the power station from the ports of Tyne, Hull and Immingham.
Drax said the overall project has helped safeguard 850 jobs at the power station.