Bord na Móna completes its brown to green transition

It has often been said: “Celebrate endings—for they precede new beginnings.”

On 23 December 2023, the climate solutions and renewable energy company, Bord na Móna, completed its historic brown to green transition when the last MWh of electricity that would ever come from the burning of peat was generated at Edenderry Power Station, County Offaly. Ultimately, bringing the curtain down on a tradition that spanned over half a century of using peat in the Irish Energy Mix. A historic moment not only for Bord na Móna, but for Ireland.

As peat-fired generation is now consigned to the annals of history, Bord na Móna is investing €100 million to decarbonise the Edenderry Renewable Energy Complex. This investment has already seen the refurbishment of the solid fuel boiler, and associated fuel handling systems, to allow the plant run on 100 per cent sustainably sourced biomass, which will deliver 118MW of renewable electricity capacity to our national grid.

Head of Renewable Energy for Bord na Móna, John Reilly stated: “By ending the use of peat at our Edenderry Power Station, Bord na Móna is pioneering the expansion of our climate solutions and renewable energy offering to safeguard green energy supply for the future. The Edenderry Renewable Energy Complex is a key part of this journey, ultimately supporting delivery against Ireland’s renewable energy targets by 2030, and net zero emissions by 2050.

“Our €100 million investment in Edenderry will allow Bord na Móna to continue delivering for Ireland’s energy security, as we always have, by supporting our growing portfolio of renewable energy projects that include wind, solar and in the near future hydrogen”.

The hard work and dedication of the employees in Bord na Móna has ensured the company has found a way forward that will ensure the Edenderry Renewable Energy Complex will continue to prosper, while keeping Ireland’s heartland at the centre of renewable electricity generation. Bord na Móna’s unprecedented transition from brown to green provides a tangible, hopeful example for other corners of the world.

The Edenderry Renewable Energy Complex also includes a 120MW distillate fired generator that can provide flexible peaking capacity at times when the national grid comes under pressure and requires additional capacity. Bord na Móna is currently working with Gas Networks Ireland (GNI) to bring the natural gas network to the complex, with the aim of replacing distillate with natural gas and reducing emissions from this peaking plant by 40 per cent for the occasional times it is in use. This natural gas connection will ultimately facilitate biomethane, and then green hydrogen, providing carbon-free, firm generation capacity to back-up Bord na Móna’s expanding portfolio of wind and solar assets, and for the power system in general. This facility will play an important role in facilitating the expansion of Ireland’s renewable capacity from circa 5GW today to 10GW and beyond in the future.

According to John Reilly: “The company’s focus is now on maintaining the Edenderry Power Station as a dispatchable source of renewable electricity generation on the power system. Maintaining firm dispatchable power sources on the electric power system is crucial to increasing the deployment of intermittent non-synchronous forms of generation, such as wind and solar power. Across much of Europe, that firm capacity will be provided by gas or even nuclear facilities. Our focus today is on securing increasing volumes of sustainable biomass to ensure that the Edenderry Power Station can continue to play this vital role in the journey to a net zero electric power system.”

Last delivery of peat to Bord na Móna’s Edenderry Power Station

In 2023, Bord na Móna sourced approximately 80 per cent of the biomass material consumed at the Edenderry Facility indigenously from ex-forest via local sawmills, located within a 100km radius of the complex. This biomass source on its own does not provide the required combustion chemistry to ensure the efficient combustion of fuel within the combustion chamber. It is therefore important that the company supplements this with biomass material that provides the necessary additives to ensure efficient combustion and meets current emissions standards.

Research and trials over the years has indicated that those materials are best sourced from residues from the pulp and paper manufacturing process. As a result, about 20 per cent of the biomass fuel used in Edenderry at present is certified sustainable residues sourced from the international pulp and paper sector. Bord na Móna works with Preferred by Nature, an international non-profit organisation that supports better land management and business practices, to carry out on-the-ground sustainability audits on its behalf at international sites where biomass material is sourced.

Reilly adds: “When biomass is combusted, CO2 is emitted from the process, however, plans are afoot to examine the possibility of installing carbon capture technology, which would see the power plant classified as a “negative emissions” unit, which could prove invaluable to Ireland on our journey to net zero. The captured carbon would be ‘biogenic’ in nature and could have a number of extremely valuable uses in a carbon constrained world.”

As one of the largest suppliers of renewable electricity in Ireland, Bord na Móna will continue to focus on expanding its energy portfolio as well as on the development of low carbon enterprises, peatlands rehabilitation and sustainable waste management, which will all support the delivery of our national climate goals.

Bord na Móna has been serving communities across Ireland for almost 90 years and through its renewable energy offering will continue to safeguard green energy supply for these communities in the future. The Edenderry Renewable Energy Complex will play a key role in this journey, with the Company’s €100 million investment at the site allowing it to provide an on-demand renewable energy source for the national grid when the wind does not blow, and the sun does not shine.

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