Biomass protest to take place as huge log piles grow at sites including Minster

Campaigner Nik Mitchell at the huge Minster log pile Photo Nik Mitchell

Thanet Green Party members are organising a demo as part of an International Day of Action Against Big Biomass on Friday (October 21).

The demo will be held at the northern entrance to Discovery Park in Sandwich to directly protest against the biomass plant on site and to highlight the huge log piles stacked up at sites in Minster, at Wingham and at Discovery Park due to the biomass plant’s turbine being out of operation – causing a backlog.

The pile of logs at Minster is some 25ft tall and runs for around half a mile. It is the responsibility of Euroforest Ltd, the supplier for Kent Renewable Energy at Discovery Park.

The log storing requires planning permission but this is not in place for the site at Minster.

Thanet Green councillor Becky Wing visited the site and says she was shocked at the massive size of it.

She said: “After a quick google of government guidance on the storage of wood I reported it to both Thanet council planning and licensing departments on October 11. Planning officers investigated and confirmed that the site does require a planning application and the company now have 14 days to do this.”

Thanet council enforcement officers have told company Euroforest Limited that an application must be made.

A Thanet council spokesperson said: “Planning permission is required for the open storage of logs at Minster. Our Planning Enforcement team has been in contact with the company responsible, to request that they submit an application within a defined timescale.

“In line with our enforcement protocol, we aim to bring unauthorised developments back into the planning system. This is important to make sure that consultation can take place, and proposals can be properly considered.”

Photo Nik Mitchell

The £160million biomass plant opened in 2018 and bosses from Kent Renewable Energy say it generates 27MW of renewable electricity using locally sourced wood as fuel, which is the equivalent of supplying 50,000 homes and saving over 100,000 tons of CO2 every year.  The plant provides heat and power to the Discovery Park with the excess being exported to the local electricity grid.

A statement from Kent Renewable Energy says: “Kent Renewable Energy (KRE) provides sustainable electricity to tens of thousands of homes in the South East, and sustainable heat and electricity to the 3,500 employees of the Discovery Park Life Sciences Park. According to the UK Government methodology, KRE’s operations result in Green House Gas emission saving of over 95% compared to the average unit of electricity used in the UK.

“All the wood that we use is sustainably sourced from managed woodlands in the UK in accordance with Forestry Stewardship Council controlled wood procedures; with around 70% coming from nearby Kent, Sussex, Hampshire & Surrey. We used a small proportion of wood from Estonia during our early operation. This amounts to 3% of our usage to date and is no longer part of our supply. Around 40-50% of the material we currently use is suffering from ash dieback and for every ash dieback tree that is removed, eight to twelve resilient native broadleaves saplings are planted in its place.

“Woodlands managed in line with Forestry Stewardship Council procedures ensure older trees are replaced with newly planted trees that remove more CO2 from the atmosphere faster as they grow – ensuring that our woodlands are as effective a carbon sink as they can be. As unmanaged woodlands grow older, the rate at which they absorb CO2 from the atmosphere slows and eventually they die, releasing the more potent greenhouse gas methane into the atmosphere as they decompose.

“The South East is one of the most densely wooded areas of England and the commercial forestry in this area used to feed a paper industry that has largely closed down, leaving the local forestry to become unmanaged.

“KRE was conceived as a way of helping to manage this woodland and provide local countryside jobs. Bringing this forestry back under management increases the effectiveness of the woodlands as a carbon sink.“

Campaigners dispute the carbon balancing claim and say the process releases more C02 than burning coal. Nik Mitchell, from Wildlife Conservation in Thanet, said: “They say the wood burnt is from trees too small for timber industry, diseased or rotten (grade 6 or Z), but it turns out only 11% of it is that grade.

“Companies are getting billions of pounds of environmental subsidies cutting down primary forest and we are funding this.”

Environmental campaigners say the issue with biomass is that it takes huge areas of land and huge quantities of wood to supply a tiny fraction of the energy we use.

They say burning biomass emits CO2 to the atmosphere, just as burning fossil fuels does. The Biofuel Watch group says: “Those emissions are ignored in government and  energy company carbon accounting – yet the science increasingly shows that this is a dangerous omission and that cutting down trees for energy raises carbon in the atmosphere precisely when we need to rapidly reduce it to have any hope of keeping global warming to 1.5 degrees.”

Not all wood is locally sourced for the plant at Sandwich. A Freedom of Information request lodged by the group Thanet Trees last year shows that just 33% was sourced from Kent in the 2019/20 financial year. Some 8,609 tonnes of the wood came from Estonia.

The Thanet Trees FOI also shows Kent Renewable Energy used 183, 054 tonnes of virgin material, 28, 274 tonnes of waste wood and 18, 537 tonnes of sawmill residues:

Photo Nik Mitchell

Cllr Wing said she is thankful that a number of locals, Thanet Trees and the Thanet Green Party, have been keeping a close eye on and researching biomass plants, including the one at Sandwich owned and run by Kent Renewable Energy Ltd (KRE).

She said: “These groups and individuals have long held the view that energy produced from Biomass Plants is ‘greenwashing’ of the most despicable kind and is clearly detrimental to forests in the UK and further afield.

“The KRE website proudly claims to ‘burn locally sourced wood fuel to generate heat and power’ and further claims it ‘saves 100,000 tons of CO2 equal to 1 million planes flights to Paris’, but fails to provide a breakdown of associated CO2 produced to; fell, transport, de-bark, chip, dry and then burn, to generate this so-called renewable energy.

“How do biomass plants make this all work financially? The answer is that subsidies are at the heart of making this financially viable, with the Drax Biomass Power Station, for example receiving £893m in subsidies for burning forest biomass in 2021 alone. This is a whopping £2.44m a day, so effectively we, the tax payers, are paying for trees to be cut down and burnt, this simply cannot be right and it is certainly could not be considered environmentally friendly.

“We are often shocked and horrified at images of Orangutans clinging to the last tree as companies clear large parts of the world’s rainforests, and yet our government is using our money to do exactly the same, justifying it as renewable energy.”

Cllr Wing says she has real concerns about the build-up of wood by the side of the A299 near the Minster roundabout.

She said she was thankful Thanet council had acted quickly to address this but added: “I am quite frankly gobsmacked that anyone could think it was OK to do this without the proper planning measures in place.”

She added there are further concerns that the gates to the site are often just left open, there is no security or any sign of firefighting prevention or equipment, or a secure fence surrounding the pile.

Thanet Green Party says there should now be serious questions asked of the South Thanet MP who supports this ‘renewable energy.’ and why his government is spending billions ‘to destroy woodland and associated ecosystems.’

Thanet Green Party says the money should instead be used to retrofit old properties and build new eco-friendly Passive Houses, reducing energy bills for residents rather than boosting profits for big business.

The annual report for Kent Renewable Energy for year ending December 2020 – the latest available – shows the company made an operating loss of £2,578,004 caused by a combination of factors including severe pressure on power prices globally resulting from the impacts of Covid-19 and a 55 day planned plant shut down to repair the turbine. The report also says the plant is expected to be decommissioned in 2044.

The protest on Friday will be held from 3pm-5pm. For precise location use https://what3words.com/rotation.having.serenade

The international day of action is organised by the forests, climate and biomass working group from Environmental Pzper group.

The aim is to raise awareness of the environmental and social impacts of burning forest biomass on an industrial scale.

77 Comments

  1. Although it is correct to say that wood burning produces CO2, it is wrong to say this has a bad effect on climate change. The CO2 released was already in the atmosphere a few score years ago, when the tree was growing. The CO2 is simply released back into the atmosphere where it recently was. Effectively a net zero process.
    Coal, on the other hand, contains carbon that was locked away 350 million years ago. We are releasing into the atmosphere millions of years’ worth of CO2 in just a couple of centuries, causing grave damage to the climate.
    Will the demonstrators be taking the 45 bus?

        • What you have written proves that you have no idea what you are talking about and how CO2 and the burning of fuel works.

          • Actually hes absolutely correct , only carbon released while the tree grew is released . the timber in not simply burned its incinerated is a way there is no solid released into the atmosphere . its not a camp fire

    • Andrew, I totally agree with you. I have studied this area a lot and biomass is the way forward. The CO2 is only released and re-stored over a relatively short period of time.

      • If people are concerned about climate change and co2 then animals can be blamed as well and us for the release of co2 and methane if you get my drift.

    • Estonia is not a locally sourced biomass & has anyone included transport & shipping into these complicated equations I wonder

  2. I’m not sure about the metrics relating to the CO2 released from wood burning, or the comparisson to coal. This said Kent Renewable’s said the wood for their burner would be sourced locally but it isn’t. The trees are mostly from mainland Europe requiring a lot of CO2 for transport, ships and trucks.
    The point about these trees capturing CO2 from their growth is fair but unless each felled tree is replaced with an equally mature specimen their will be a CO2 gain in the atmosphere.
    Also there is the massive de-forestation in the places used to source the trees as, looking at the piles, very few are off-cuts or diseased. So another issue is the habitat destruction from the tree cutting.

    • Yes, but the “gain” in CO2 will be what was “lost” as the tree grew just a few years (on a geological scale) ago.
      If I take £5 from the tin, and put £5 back in a bit later, nothing has changed

        • And again I say I absolutely do know what I’m talking about. Just because you don’t (or won’t) understand doesn’t mean I’m ignorant.

          • And again I say. What you have written proves that you have no idea what you are talking about and how CO2 and the burning of fuel works.

            What you state is just make believe, do you really think what you claim about burning trees is true. If you do, you should certainly not be claiming “I absolutely do know what I’m talking about” as you very clearly do not understand the basics and should not be trying to state your deluded opinion as facts.

      • But the CO2/climate change problems have got really serious over the last four or five decades. If you have a £5 bill to pay each month and I remove the money and put back 50p a month that doesn’t help you at all.
        Also, It’s vital that felled trees are replaced, if we are to balance the carbon equation. But, this replacement, has to be like for like meaniing a tree has to be planted and allowed to mature (30-50 years) before you take one to burn.
        But this doesn’t address the habitat loss deforestation on this scale causes.
        My other concern is that the Bio-mass company comments in the article are very misleading, like “using coppicing”; very little of the trunks in the images are small enough to have been coppiced.

    • The thing is Garry, the timber will fall and decay anyway that’s just nature and as it decays it will release methane that is 20 times worst at reflecting radiation back onto the planet. What these companies do is extract the energy that would just go to waste. I believe them to be carbon negative due to the fact that a lot of the carbon sequestrated during growth actually gets stored under ground in the root system. The growth cycle will even itself out due to the fact that young trees actually take up a lot more co2 as they rush to grow and secure dominance.

    • How do you know it comes in on boats from Europe. Is this what some people reckon. The trees are locally sourced (south and south east of the UK).maybe speak with the drivers and ask them where they pick the trees from. They will tell you. Alot of trees come from wood management and diesesed trees.

    • Trees not just from mainland Europe Garry! A recent BBC programme showed thousands of trees being cut down in the US, and transported here by ship to fuel the Drax power station! It showed that replacing the trees with saplings would take upwards of 25 years before any benefit would be achieved in balancing CO2! No, I am opposed to wood burning in any form, and that includes in your front room!

    • So agree. I have been out raged about the amount of HGVs that bring in enormous amounts of wood (and would like to know where it was sourced for a few years. Apparently, I have no proof, but if you take ‘wood’ ie cut down trees to them they will buy them. I have heard stories that some trees are duct down (for any reason) and sold to them.

  3. Cutting down perfectly healthy trees and loading them onto trucks to take them to a waiting cargo ship to take them to a UK port to load them onto another truck to take them to a bio mass plant to generate “clean energy” is clearly a ridiculous concept and companies absolutely should get called out for doing this.

      • Seen the very few protesters, wearing the oil based waterproof products, rubber soles , devices with mined precious metals , and cotton clothing made in India,and there wooden poles , plastic shades , paper signs , the list goes on , at least one will go home and light up a log burner or stove, then sit down on there leather sofas drinking a wine , but of course non of this maters to them its all naturally made without using energy, and non of it is harmful to the planet , don’t forget to charge up your phones tonight so you can download your photos onto your laptops . Have a safe drive home in your petrol or diesel cars . Sad sad people.

  4. Hope the Eco Warriors had permission to be on that land plus who would they sue if theyd slipped off the logs?

    I’ll be long gone before the world ends, live for today and let tomorrow worry about itself!

  5. When I first saw the wood at Sandwich for the biomass site I could not understand why so much wood is being burnt,not understanding too much of co2 etc it still does not make much sense to burn so many tree trunks no matter the reason.Eventually surely they will destroy whole swathes of forests and new trees will not grow overnight,whats it doing to our wildlife having habitats taken away,no matter why its all about MONEY

  6. Biomass is a terrible energy source for the environment. It’s already been proven that power stations like Drax are importing trees from ancient woodlands in America and Canada and Swathes of ancient forests are going up in smoke and essential wildlife habitats are being being destroyed never to be recovered at an alarming rate.
    Drax and the other environment destroying biomass power stations don’t even monitor the fumes coming out of its chimneys anymore because they are burning a renewable energy source’s so the reality is that they are releasing more toxins and co2 into the environment than a coal powered power station.
    Biomass has to go. Anyone who truly looks into the negatives of biomass will soon realise that it’s more harmful to the environment than virtually every other power source.
    Anyone who still thinks that biomass is helping the environment has been sold a lie.

    • I think you will find that the Drax story was nothing less than poor one sided journalism and I fully expect to see the BBC paying out compensation in coming years for producing it. Further more you will find that Drax actually uses 80% saw dust and the rest is diseased wood and wood that cannot be used for anything else. Rather than just repeat what you read in the press I suggest do a bit of research. After all the press are there to sell advertising and make money , what better than a bit of baseless scandal.

      • Mark Lycet.
        https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3113908/How-world-s-biggest-green-power-plant-actually-INCREASING-greenhouse-gas-emissions-Britain-s-energy-bill.htmlam

        This above article was from 7 years ago. There are also reports of the negative ramifications of biomass power stations available if you care to do some research.
        There’s always two sides to a story and statistics can be manipulated to support either party in an argument. Personally I believe the environmentalist’s , the scientists and charities who genuinely want to save the planet and actually want to protect our ever dwindling wildlife rather than a corporation being paid handsomely to burn trees and pump rubbish into our atmosphere.

        https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-york-north-yorkshire-40963488

        Many more articles available online if you care to look.

      • Wrong……the trees are healthy and not diseased. They are decimating prime forest land, burning them, and we are all paying for it in the form of huge government subsidies which they receive daily……. to the tune of £2.4 million! It’s obscene…..green washing at its very very best!!

        • For the best part of 100 years Scandinavian countries (Finland in particular) have been growing huge forests as “crops”. The trees are felled and pulled to make newsprint.
          Everyone seemed quite happy with that.
          What’s wrong in using those trees as fuel for electricity generation?

        • Not true I’m local and the wood that’s stored at minster is from coppiced rotation normally 20 years the trees stocks do not die and are very historic and used to support many craftsmen since medieval times and since we don’t use hop poles and fencing stakes and thatching pins and sheep hurdles. Much now We haven’t been using the coppiced materials correctly ,
          Bowaters at Sittingbourne used to take in 500 thousand tones a year from Kent and Sussex but no longer, and the coppice areas keeps growing regardless, so we allow it to grow for a cycle of twenty years and harvest it then do it all over again in another twenty years no fertilisers are used and the coppiced areas are only managed correctly on a few estates nowadays and totally unmanaged in other areas

  7. Andrew you have been sold a lie.
    I suggest you read up on Drax and the other biomass power stations a little more before you make yourself look even more ignorant. Rather than reading the so called facts as given by the people behind the biomass power stations perhaps you should read the science offered by virtually every single environmental protection group and charity, it might enlighten you to the real truth. Do you still believe that smoking is good for you ? Remember there was a time in recent history when cigarette manufacturers claimed that smoking wasn’t harmful, well we all know what happened next don’t we.

  8. The only biomass that should be burnt is the waste that has no other use and so would rot and release it’s co2 any way. Any other use thar locks in the co2 is far better , using the timber for construction etc.
    Before they started importing from europe , a good amount of the timber came from plantations in wales and trucked in. It was nothing to see 6 plus lorries inbound on a morning run upto the m25 and round to heathrow.

  9. Dont you just love the Thanet Green Party.There wards are probably the most litter strewn wards in both North and South Thanet.I have complained to them at the appalling litter levels and nothing gets done.How can you respect these people when they cant even get basic litter picking sorted.

    • That’s a funny thing to say. When I’ve been on litter picks I often see Thanet Green Party members, it’s their distinctive hi-vis vests. I’ve seen a few other political people but very few.
      The other thing is there are only four Green Pty Cllr’s in Thanet, so four wards.
      Is it the job of Cllr’s to collect litter? – no it’s not. People shouldn’t cause it and n if they do the Council should sort it.
      If you look at TDC meetings you’ll see the four Green Cllr’s trying to improve litter problems in many ways.
      So, what have you done?

      • Its the job of the council to sort the litter problem out.Many streets in Green Party areas have neither been swept or litter picked for years.
        The detritus caused by lack of sweeping acts as compost for weed growth.The weeds then have to be sprayed every year.The weeds are sprayed with so called green weed killer.Full of VOCs polluting the atmosphere.So if the Green Party cannot get the basics rights,Im entitled to call them hypocrites.

  10. The science is the science. I haven’tbeen told any lies at all. Drax doesn’t come into my argument at all.
    It’s a fact that (whatever else might be) the CO2 released by burning wood does not have anything like the impact of burning fossil fuels such as coal. And remember that when a tree dies, it decays and gives up its CO2, with or without burning.

  11. Mark Lycet.
    Isle of Thanet news won’t let me post links so please look for a Daily Mail article from 2015 about biomass power stations environmental credentials and a BBC news article from 2017 about the emisiones of biomass pellets exceeding coal power stations.

    There’s always two sides to a story and statistics can be manipulated to support either party in an argument. Personally I believe the environmentalist’s , the scientists and charities who genuinely want to save the planet and actually want to protect our ever dwindling wildlife rather than a corporations being paid handsomely to burn trees and pump rubbish into our atmosphere.

    Many more articles available online if you care to look.

    • This is an extract from the BBC article:
      “The company gets government green energy subsidies, but the protesters say burning biomass at Drax produces as much carbon as burning coal”
      That might be true.
      But the difference is that burning coal releases carbon that was safely locked up and would have stayed that way; burning wood releases carbon that was recently in the atmosphere, and will one way or another soon be back in the atmosphere.
      If anything must be burned, better wood than fossil fuels.

  12. If you want to know the truth about such ‘renewable energy’ I suggest you watch Panorama’s recent episode about Drax. And to be honest this is in many ways worse as at least some of the wood Drax is burning can be traced back as ‘waste’ but anyone living in Thanet can’t have failed to miss the never-ending lorries piled high with what is clearly trees cut down in their prime and definitely NOT waste wood or coppicing or anything of the sort.

  13. Oh dear. The usual issue in the waste business. You get huge stockpiles because there isn’t a genuine, economic use for the material. Why is there such a large stockpile? My guess is: because the company is about to go bust. The green subsidies for bio-mass have been cut over the last few years.

  14. Biomass where energy is produced near the source of the timber,which is genuinely coppiced, burnt, replaced and where possible increased,by replanting is one thing.You would still have to include the co2 expended in cutting down, transporting and preparing for the furnace.
    This power station relies on wood which may or may not be sourced sustainably,but it is cut down and transported from afar by road,which is the least efficient method, or by sea,in which energy is expended in transhipment probably several times over.
    Because the supply contract dictates more wood than can be handled, energy is expended in unloading,storing and reloading the wood before it is burnt.
    A back hoe is used to pick up the wood and feeds it into the chipper so more fossil fuel is expended.I am assuming the chipper is powered by electricity.
    The whole operation is small and inefficient.At least Drax is a large power station.it might keep our lights on this winter.This plant is less reliable than the PV cells on my roof and is probably a subsidy operation. I mean one turbine, they’re not being serious.
    You must take the whole operation in the round,not just the bits that look green.
    Anyway Craig Mackinlay thinks it’s green,and as he is a thorough going climate change denier it must be a bit of green wash.

  15. We are all looking for ways to stop damaging the planet go greener and preserve nature.
    But the timber is supposed to be locally sourced, running trucks passed dover port from all areas and up to storage areas.
    In fact the carbon foot print for this biomass turbine is being cancelled out by all the pollution of the running to and froe trucks.
    This is just another case of swap one thing for another and call it greener

  16. Think the logs are temporally stockpilled, maybe the biomass plant got a bogof deal !.
    Why protest ? do the protesters want electricity rationing during the coldest months ?
    Fracking is coming to east kent, hahaaha the nimby protesters will be busy.
    Log’s

    • I rather doubt that fracking will come to anywhere in the UK. It certainly won’t come to Kent. It would be far too costly an outlay for not much return.
      The collieries of Kent failed (at least in part) because the coal seams are thin and badly off-set by faulting. Same issues would affect fracking.
      And if the worst happened, and fracking came here, would that be a thing to celebrate? In May 2015 a magnitude 4 earthquake hit east Kent. I’d rather not have any more of those.

  17. Simple solution. Global cull of our species. Nobody seems to recognise that as a solution however it is one

  18. Renewable energy: Renewable energy is energy that is collected from renewable resources that are naturally replenished on a human timescale.Wikipedia

    1. Burning trees 20 to 30 years old means that it will take 20 to 30 years to grow the same amount of trees to achieve a neutral amount of emission. There is no indication that biomass industry are replanting the same amount of trees they are burning. Moreover it will take 20 30 years for newly planted trees before they absorb the same amount of CO2 the burnt one did. Any tree that is cut reduces absorption of CO2 and therefore increases emission of CO2 globally. Otherwise we might just as well burnt all the forests for biomass, and say that it’s OK as we will replant them later. The timescale is vital there.
    2. The UK does not have to count the emission of CO2 from biomass if the trees comes from outside the UK, which is a loophole exploited by the UK at the moment, as a large amount of trees for biomass comes from abroad.
    3. anybody who say burning trees emits no CO2 is deluded, and there is no “carbon capture” on these biomass plants.
    4. Biomass gets large subsidies from the government which would be better used for truly renewable energy such as wind or solar or even house insulation to reduce energy consumption.

    In summary,biomass is better described as a “greenwashing” exercise, it might be a profitable industry, but it is not renewable, it is just like trying to convince the public that fracking is OK OK because it emits slightly less CO2 than importing gas from abroad.

  19. Typical whining green councilors all the bloody same even picking on companies now that only exist to try and keep them happy. Bet she’s against the airport to !!!!! Another business that could bring untold wealth into a s##thole like thanet

  20. All those trees just to fuel one plant a total unnecessary waste of trees. I can clearly see theses are healthy trees that took years to grown and will never be be replaced at such a rate as was cut down,just how much fuel was used to cut them and drive them by the lorry load to there destination and that’s a cleaner energy source. Really what a load of gullible crap.ive seen the rate they burn them too at sandwich heart breaking and they expect those with wood burning stoves to be banned from using them. They wouldn’t burn 2 of those trees in a winter I watch them burn lorry loads in a day.

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