How Green is biomass?

New site plans in North Blyth
Plans for the new site in North Blyth Photo: RES Developers

The Battleship Wharf strip is a feat of proximity: it's a wind-battered finger of North Blyth land, touching or nearly touching an industrial port, a village, a school and a slither of special coastline.

Now add in a new potential player: a multi-million pound biomass power plant that could generate the equivalent amount of power as supplying 150,000 homes.The developers think it's good news.

Biomass typically uses wood or algae instead of coal or oil. Its supporters say any move away from coal is progress. The inevitable carbon emissions, they say, can be filtered and cleaned.

RES thinks it will bring roughly 50 permanent jobs and up to 300 temporary jobs.

But down on Teesside, at the Centre for Process and Innovation, there is a word of caution. The devil is in the detail. Where are the trees and the wood coming from?

Developers RES told me that "a proportion" is coming from overseas.Already that adds transportation emissions. But crucially, they also said part of the wood would come from "managed woodland" : they'll chop trees down to supply the station.

So biomass is no 100% solution. Developers RES make no bones about cutting down trees. But it points out that it is part of a national energy plan that will reduce carbon emissions by 300,000 tonnes.

The question then, is perhaps not how green is biomass, but is it green enough for us?

As Brits, some may say "yes". But now back to that slither of land. If it was on your doorstep, would it be green enough? It's those people the developers need the answer from.

The Blyth Biomass plant is currently under consideration by the IPC as to whether the application should be accepted. If so it should go to public consultation in April or May.