Sleaford’s straw-fired power plant has been officially opened by the Government’s minister for energy and climate change.
Baroness Verma received a tour of the Sleaford Renewable Energy Plant (REP), in Boston Road, on Friday, before unveiling a plaque at the site.
The 32MW power station began commercial operation in September. Planning permission for the facility was awarded as far back as November 2008, with construction beginning in May 2012.
Speaking at Friday’s official opening, Baroness Verma said she was ‘extremely impressed’ by the plant.
She said: “I’ve really enjoyed my tour around today. I’m a geek for looking at the, sort of, mechanics and the engineering that goes behind the construction and to have a plant this size, at this scale and this complexity up within 30 months is an achievement and I think we should all be extremely proud of that achievement.”
The facility burns 240,000 tonnes of straw a year, generating enough power for 68,000 homes, while saving 150,000 tonnes of CO2 annually.
In addition to its green credentials, up to 300 jobs were created through the plant’s construction, with more than 50 employed in its operation.
Moreover, surplus heat generated by the plant is harnessed and used for heating Sleaford’s public swimming pool, Sleaford Bowling Centre, Sleaford Town Football Club, William Alvey Primary School, and North Kesteven District Council’s office in the town - a £2m saving over 25 years to the five facilities.
There is also a £285,000 pot of cash for grants for local community groups and projects, an education programme, as well as apprenticeships.
Peter Dickson, partner and technical director at Glennmont Partners, which own the plant, described it as a ‘win-win project’.
The journey to the plant’s official opening, however, has not been without incident.
There was opposition from some quarters to the scheme at the planning stage, the start of commercial operation was delayed from the summer, while in October, 12,000 bales of straw intended for the plant caught fire at Silk Willoughby.
MP for Sleaford and North Kesteven Stephen Phillips, who was also at the opening ceremony, championed the facility.
He said: “I think the people who have been here now have seen that this is going to deliver benefits to the local area and our economy for the next 25 years. Yes, there have been some teething problems, of course, but it’s very clear they are being sorted out and we are going to get clean electricity in the district for 25 years.”