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Last Updated: Thursday, 23 March 2006, 13:40 GMT
Homes powered by wood chip plant
Plans for a power plant using wood and elephant grass to produce electricity have been given the go-ahead.

The scheme at a sawmill in Buckland, Somerset, will heat wood in a vacuum to produce a gas, which is then used in a gas engine to create electricity.

Initially the plant will be powered by woodchips produced on site.

Every hour 2.5 tonnes of wood chips will produce 3.5 megawatts of electricity - which is enough power for more than 8,000 homes.

"We intend to build a state-of-the-art plant which will generate green energy and help our sawmill business compete against tough conditions in the timber industry," said Peter Charlton, the firm's managing director.

After the initial trial lasting a few weeks, the owner A J Charlton & Sons Ltd plans to encourage farmers to grow elephant grass locally to supply the plant.

Matthew Spencer, chief executive of Regen SW, the renewable energy agency for South West England, said: "Biomass energy has been in the doldrums in the UK, but high energy prices means that things are starting to pick up.

"The Charlton biomass scheme will help reduce the environmental footprint from the South West's energy use which is the highest in the UK."

At present energy crop planting is grant funded by Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs but the scheme will close to new applications after 30 June 2006.


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