Multi-million pound Midlothian green energy plant given a boost by council

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A £20 million ‘green’ energy project which will have the same carbon impact as taking 1200 cars off the road has been given a boost after planners waived the need for additional reports after developers made changes to the original development.

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Midlothian Council has paired by with Swedish state energy firm Vattenfall to bring a district heating energy centre to the county.

However initial plans to provide back-up heating onsite with electric boilers have been changed to use a mix of electric and bio-fuel boilers sparking a potential delay as the council was asked to rule on whether the change would require a new environmental impact assessment.

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The proposed pipeline route and site of the massive green energy plant.The proposed pipeline route and site of the massive green energy plant.
The proposed pipeline route and site of the massive green energy plant.

This week Midlothian planners ruled that no further reports would be needed.

Initial plans had stated that while the main source of energy is expected to come from the recycling centre, back-up boilers would be in place in case of disruption to the supply and would be powered by electricity.

It was expected the back-up boilers would only be used around 876 hours per year during periods of maintenance or outage from the recycling centre.

In a new request lodged with planners last month representatives for Vattenfall said it was now planned to use bio-fuel and electric boilers as back up and asked them to rule on whether additional environmental reports would be needed.

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However planners said: “The development would perform a distributive function within the network with occasional back-up heat-generation capability to ensure continuity of service.

“In this respect, the development would operate like most other utilities.”

Numerous reports on the environmental impact of the original development and neighbouring Shawfair proposals have already been carried out in the area.

And the council said: “It is not considered that the development considered here would result in any new significant effects on the environment that have not already been considered.”

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The decision paves the way for planning permission to be sought by the developers.

The centre, which was initially planned to be built alongside the new Shawfair education campus, is being considered for Millerhill, where it will sit beside its recycling and energy recovery centre(RERC) which will provide fuel for the heating network.

The main building is described as being 12 metres high and 50m by 38m in size, and will require pipes to travel alongside woodlands to Shawfair.

Midlothian Council has signed up to a 40-year deal to provide heating after hailing its potential to reduce CO2 emissions and the massive reduction in the county’s carbon footprint. Further details of the development have emerged as the COP26 climate change conference is being staged in Glasgow.

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The main source of energy is expected to come from the recycling centre however the back up boilers will be in place in case of disruption to the supply.

The local authority said that the district heating network is expected to save “over 2,000 tonnes of CO2 per year, the equivalent of taking 1,200 cars off the road”.

Midlothian Council said the network project involved a £20 million investment with up to £7.3million coming from the Scottish Government’s Low Carbon Infrastructure Transformation Programme.

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