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World’s smallest biomass power plant using biomass gasification passes 1000 hours

An Entrade Energiesystems E3 micro-scale biomass CHP plant installation in Cheshire, UK has passed 1000 hours of operation (nearly seven weeks), with almost no human interference.

The breakthrough E3 technology from German-based Entrade Energiesystems, which can provide continuous baseload power at micro scale, could open up a major new market opportunity for SMEs in the UK to generate onsite decentralised energy.

Micro-scale biomass CHP

The E3 micro-scale biomass CHP plant produces 22 kW of electrical energy and 55 kW of thermal energy, and can be scaled up by connecting plants in series. The unit is packed into a standard shipping container, and can be installed in less than a day.

The advanced gasification technology uses widely available standard ENplus pellets. The fuel is broken down into ‘syngas’, an energy-rich gas similar to natural gas. The syngas is fed to an internal combustion engine to generate electricity, and simultaneously delivers both heating and cooling by capturing heat throughout the process.

Clean gasification

Many attempts to gasify wood for electricity production at small scale in the past have failed, usually due to tar buildup in the engine. Entrade says that its gasification technology – independently tested by the Fraunhofer Institute for Environmental, Safety, and Energy Technology UMSICHT – delivers syngas 10 times purer than any other gasification unit currently on the market.

This breakthrough means that small-scale baseload energy production becomes competitive with large-scale systems. Designed for mass production, the E3 can be produced at €2500 per kW of installed capacity, which is already below large-scale biomass power plants.

In the UK, the E3 is able to deliver electricity at 6.3p per kWh, and arrives as businesses are beginning to look for solutions to become independent of the grid. The Confederation of British Industry says that decentralised energy could rise by 130% by 2030.

Changing the economics

‘A maintenance-free, modularised CHP unit like the E3 will change the economics of the UK energy framework, by pushing more 24 hour generation to the edge of the grid – and the value to those countries with no grid is potentially enormous,’ says Julien Uilig, CEO of Entrade.

‘Clean gasification has always been a big issue for small biomass CHP,’ adds David Tomkinson, director and founder of TW Power Ltd, Entrade’s client in Macclesfield. ‘The inevitable buildup of tar has usually required 24/7 maintenance to deal with regular breakdowns. By comparison, the E3 produces almost no tar, and runs around-the-clock with approximately 15 minutes of maintenance per week.’

‘As a small business, the E3 will produce a bit more power than we need, which means that will sell any excess energy directly back to the grid,’ he continues. ‘Even without running the machine at full capacity, we expect the machine to pay for itself in less than four years.’

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Bioenergy  •  Energy efficiency  •  Energy infrastructure  •  Green building