Hope exceeded as plant powers up

HOUSEHOLD waste from homes in Northumberland is helping to provide electricity for the national grid with the completion of a £70m extension to the Tees Valley energy-from-waste facility.

HOUSEHOLD waste from homes in Northumberland is helping to provide electricity for the national grid with the completion of a £70m extension to the Tees Valley energy-from-waste facility.

The major extension of SITA UK’s plant at Haverton Hill, near Billingham, which was built on behalf of Northumberland County Council, is currently enabling 110,000 tonnes of the county’s non-recycled waste to be diverted from landfill every year. Under a multi-million-pound, 28-year Private Finance Initiative contract, signed with Northumberland County Council in 2006, SITA UK aims to assist the council in transforming recycling and waste management in the county.

The ultimate aim is to reduce Northumberland’s long-term reliance on landfill, so that just 8% of its residual waste is buried by 2012.

And with the county’s non-recycled waste now being diverted to the energy-from-waste plant, and the combined recycling and composting rate rising almost 10% in the past three years, work is on course for these ambitious targets to be met.

The multi-million-pound extension, which can deal with 136,000 tonnes of waste a year, was completed on time and within budget, and last May was handed over to SITA UK by the contractor after passing stringent performance trials.

However, it will be officially opened at a special ceremony at the energy-from-waste facility in October by SITA UK’s chief executive David Palmer-Jones, North West Durham MP Hilary Armstrong, who is also chairwoman of SITA UK’s Advisory Board, and leader of the county council Coun Jeff Reid.

Councillors and environment officers from the authority will attend the opening to see the plant working. There are now three furnaces there, with the new extension alone producing 10MW of electricity, which is enough to supply the energy needs of about 12,000 homes.

This extra production means that, in total, more than 30MW of power is being generated by the whole facility, which is being constantly fed into the national grid.

That said, there is spare capacity in the new extension of 25,000 tonnes a year, which will be made available at market prices to other councils or commercial customers, providing more opportunities to divert waste from landfill.

ITA UK’s general manager for the Northumberland PFI contract Richard Hinchcliffe said: “This major new facility will ensure SITA UK is able to achieve its commitments to Northumberland and the rest of the North East.

“I am really pleased that one of the Tees Valley’s largest construction projects and the testing of some extremely complex equipment has been commissioned without a hitch and exceeded all expectations. As Northumberland County Council’s partner, we are committed to major investment in state-of-the-art new facilities that can help achieve ambitious landfill diversion targets that have been set under our contract.

“The extension at the energy-from-waste facility has been designed to the very highest environmentally-friendly standards – far higher than the toughest European requirements.”

Northumberland County Council executive member for the environment Coun Alan Thompson said: “The completion of the extension on budget and on time, with an excellent health and safety record, and capped off with the remarkably successful performance trials, are a tribute to everyone who has worked on this important project.

“This new extension will help the county council to transform recycling and waste management in the county. The objective is to reduce the county’s long-term reliance on landfill, so that just 8% of the county’s waste goes to landfill by 2012.

“Our investment in energy from waste is driven by environmental considerations, but also by the financial uncertainties of relying on landfill. Access to the Tees Valley EfW facility will provide a huge benefit to the environment and save council tax payers in the county millions of pounds in landfill tax in future years.”

Last year, Northumberland residents produced 160,000 tonnes of waste and achieved a recycling and composting rate of just over 38%, with 5% being used as a fuel to generate electricity and the remaining 57% being disposed of to landfill.

By 2012, however, the target is to recycle and compost more than 45% of household waste in the county, to recover energy from non-recyclable waste and reduce the amount sent to landfill to only 8%, making the county one of the greenest in the UK.

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