Biomassive opportunity for Wales, says HRS Energy founder

Written by: Mark Wickham | Published:
Mark Wickham, HRS Energy founder and MD

HRS Energy founder and MD Mark Wickham explains why biomass presents a phenomenal opportunity for the nation.

With England and Wales grouped together at the Euro 2016 football tournament, competitiveness between the two nations is at fever pitch. However, in terms of their set ambitions to develop a more sustainable society, Wales is already giving England a thorough clobbering.

As part of the Environment Act passed earlier this year, the Welsh Assembly has committed, by 2050, to reduce carbon emissions by at least 80%, to meet all of its energy needs from renewable resources, and to become a zero waste society.

While the whole of the UK is bound to the first of these targets through the 2008 Climate Change Act, Cardiff’s ambition comfortably outstrips the targets currently set by Westminster around renewable energy and resource efficiency. The Environment and Sustainability Committee also recognises that the optimum energy future for Wales will involve smaller, decentralised generation which can power local homes and businesses.

But in order for Wales to turn this vision into a reality, it will need to work hard to maximise its domestic resources and make the most out of opportunities to meet each of these targets.

Another event which took place on Thursday was the RenewableUK Wales conference in Cardiff, at which I spoke. The company that I founded, HRS Energy, is a developer of high efficiency biomass plants, and I spoke to the audience about the significant opportunities for Wales in this area.

Biomass is one of the most important forms of renewable energy, playing an essential role in efforts to move to less carbon-intensive forms of power generation. It’s a clean source of energy that, unlike solar and wind, is not at the mercy of the elements – meaning it is reliable and secure. Moreover, biomass enables the reuse of material that could otherwise have a damaging environmental impact if disposed of through other methods such as incineration or landfill.

In this way, biomass is entirely in line with the sustainable future that Wales has committed itself to. And Wales has several advantages which make it an ideal location for this technology – beyond the political landscape. In particular, it has an abundance of organic fuel sources - although these have frequently been overlooked because, as any Welshman will tell you, the lush greenery of the Valleys is sustained by heavy rainfall, which makes the moisture content of many organic inputs too high for most facilities.

HRS has successfully addressed this challenge; our pioneering fluidised combustion technology is able to process a range of feedstocks - with a moisture content of up to 65% - opening up vast swathes of a highly underdeveloped market.

Moreover, our technology is the most efficient available, both in terms of cost and performance. This makes small-scale biomass a practical and economic technology in circumstances where it hasn’t been before, while our flexible, modular design means lower installation costs at faster speeds. It is ideal for commercial processes requiring heat, or those which need energy (as heat or power) and produce high levels of waste. It is capable of powering municipal buildings like schools and hospitals, and of being adapted to heat entire districts.

HRS has been a successful export business for a number of years, employing over 100 people at our factory near Hull and working with global energy giants to help them reduce their carbon footprints through a range of innovative technologies (including reclaiming energy from Waste Heat).

Yet, as we grow further in our domestic market, so we are seeing where the opportunities lie for different parts of the UK. As Wales seeks a cleaner and more sustainable future, it would do well to remember the opportunities provided by small-scale biomass. In reducing emissions and maximising resource efficiency, Wales can realise the future imagined by the Welsh Assembly and lead the UK into a brave new era – whatever happens in the football.

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