In the years to come, the increase in global population and the growth in average revenue per inhabitant should lead to an increased demand for primary energy, with fossil energy (petroleum, natural gas and carbon) supporting 80% of global energy consumption. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) anticipates a 56% increase of fossil fuel use worldwide between 2010 and 2040, which would lead to a 46% increase in CO2 emissions, one of the main factors responsible for global warming1. Leveraging renewable energies thus seems to be the best alternative, with both environmental and economic benefits.
Our ambitions, which are in line with this alternative solution, were finally fulfilled with the setting up of a biomass power station in the heart of the Landes department at our Vieille-Saint-Girons site. This boiler has been functional since early January 2015. Together, let’s discover the many special points of this cogeneration power plant, from its origins to its inauguration!
Following the Commission for Energy Regulation’s request for proposals in 2010, DRT, Cofely (GDF Suez Group) and the Caisse des Dépôts founded the special purpose company Biomass Energy Solutions VSG. The fruit of this alliance: an investment of nearly 55 million euros for a cogeneration power plant with the objectives that we present here.
The incredible cogeneration system was conceived to produce both heat in the form of water vapour, and electricity via a boiler and a steam turbine. Our power plant is fuelled by wood chips: stumps, branches and bark. This renewable raw material is plentiful in the Landes region. These chips are also supplemented by the by-products of tall oil distillation. Burned biomass then becomes a sufficient source of energy to guarantee the energy independence of our Vieille-Saint-Girons site.
Other than our use of biomass, we pride ourselves on overall energy efficiency, which is based on the ratio of energy produced to energy consumed. This figure is above 60%, while that of a traditional electric power plant is around 35%. Each year, the 150,000 tonnes of wood chips and the 16,000 tonnes of tall oil distillation by-products will result in the production of 97 GWh of electricity and 214 GWh of steam, without any fossil carbon emissions. This will ensure the replacement of the fossil energy used by our site, and will prevent the production of 400,000 tonnes of CO2 over the 20 years of expected operation.
Lastly, let’s not forget the effects on the sector’s local economy. This power plant created 50 jobs in Landes, including 15 directly on our site. The project will bring in 9 million euros annually to the local wood energy industry.
After three years of studies and work for the DRT team, finalised by a test phase in September 2014, the planned cogeneration power plant finally became a reality when it was officially inaugurated in early 2015. Ultimately, 1,500 people participated in this ecological quest of constructing the boiler.
Today, nothing that we take from nature goes to waste. Every resource is used, whether for manufacturing terpenes, resins or natural extracts, up through its final use in our boiler. This is a real testament to our commitment to the environment by means of harnessing renewable energy, and to the local economy. This is thus one small step for the planet, but one giant leap for the department of Landes.
1.U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), International Energy Outlook 2013, July 25, 2013