This month’s steam blows at the new Kent Renewable Energy Combined Heat and Power Plant signal the beginning of the final phase of commissioning, before the plant generates clean, green heat and power for Discovery Park and homes across the region.

The new biomass plant will use locally sourced wood fuel to generate sustainable heat and power for Discovery Park, one of Europe’s leading Science and Technology parks, near Sandwich in Kent. This will significantly reduce its energy costs, carbon footprint and reliance on imported fuel, ensuring it stays at the forefront of technology now and in the future.

Colin Dobson, General manager at the plant said, “This month’s steam blows are part of the commissioning process, where the power plant will be tested far beyond its normal operating parameters. This ensures it’s completely safe and reliable before it begins producing clean, green heat and power this summer. The steam blows are carried out to ensure all the debris, dust and any other small contaminants created during the construction of the boiler and all its pipe work have been cleaned out. Last month all the internal tubes were cleaned by flushing them through with warm acid, ready for the steam blowing to start”.

Toby Hunter, Chief Executive, Discovery Park, said: “It’s been fantastic to see the new Combined Heat and Power Plant rise up and take shape over the last year, a real symbol of the investment that will drive the success of the next chapter of this iconic global centre for science and enterprise and create more jobs and opportunities for East Kent.

“Sustainability is such an important part of what we’re about here at Discovery Park and having our own heat and power supply will take this to another level, providing green energy to power the next drug discovery by scientists working in our laboratories; light bulb moments of the entrepreneur with the next big idea; the manufacturing company delivering tomorrow’s tech. This final stage starts the countdown to exciting times ahead.”

The steam blowing will take place over a month, with each blow happening at a specific time for just a short, test period of about 60 to 90 seconds. There will be about 30 to 40 steam blows during the month with between 3 and 5 happening in a day, all during the normal site opening hours. For each steam blow the boiler is started, building up steam pressure and temperature in the pipe system. Once the right level has been achieved to clear out the pipes, the pressure will be released via a temporary steam blow pipe and there will be a hissing sound and a visible plume of steam produced. These blows will also be louder than the normal operating noise from the plant when it begins generating heat and power. The final pressure tests will then take place before the process of filling the boiler with water starts.

The project represents an inward investment of approximately £150 million to the area and will boost the local Kent economy by creating up to 27 new local jobs at the plant as well as numerous others in the supply chain, with as many as 400 jobs created during the construction period. It will also provide a significant and reliable local market for low-grade wood, making woodland management more economic, helping local wood producers diversify and supporting the production of high quality timber and coppice products in the region.

Biomass plants like this one are good sources of low carbon energy, so their benefits extend well beyond the local area. They can help tackle climate change by reducing CO2 emissions and by using locally sourced and sustainable wood fuel, they reduce reliance on imported fossil fuels whilst at the same time creating a more secure energy supply.

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