A planned £160 million gasification power plant in St James will pump around £4 million of benefits into the Northampton community every year and provide cheaper heating to areas of “sizeable fuel poverty”, its developers claim.
The Northampton Community Energy Scheme would see an “off-grid” power plant built at the Westbridge Depot site by around 2020 if the bid is successful.
At a press conference at the Doddridge Centre today, developers Rolton Kilbride said the plant would take around 30 percent of Northampton’s non-recyclable waste and use a “clean combustion process” to create enough electricity and heat to supply around a sixth of the town’s energy need.
Today more detail was given on how the wholesale energy would then be sold to Northampton via a community interest company, the Caring Community Energy Company, at a price it claims would be much lower than currently offered by any of the “big six” energy companies.
However, while homes in the vicinity of the power plant could benefit from the heat produced by the heat-treated household waste - the developers say its electricity output would likely be reserved for the town’s main power users - Northampton General Hospital, Carlsberg and soon the new Waterside University campus.
Profits generated by the power plant would be reinvested into Northampton, it was claimed, with between £4 million and £5 million a year used to improve homes in the area.
Today it was revealed that money could fund improvements to built structures, such as insulating homes in areas of high fuel poverty and installing central heating in community centres.
Chairman of the Caring Community Energy Company, former Northampton South MP Brian Binley, said: “We’ve got a green project which massively reduces carbon output. We are in some trouble if you look ahead and see the amount of power we are going to need as a growing town within an enterprise zone.
“But it should provide cheap heart for areas where there is sizeable fuel poverty.
“One of the reasons the power plant is situated where it is because we will be able to feed economically those people that need it, such as the elderly, people living in flats, those that need a bit of a leg up with regards to fuel.”
Mr Binley said as the electricity will be supplied back to Northampton via a “private wire”, the community interest company will be able to provide energy much cheaper than the big six companies.
Today also saw the full make-up of the Caring Community Energy Company board revealed for the first time.
Alongside Mr Binley and current chairman of the St James Residents’ Association Graham Croucher, who have already been announced as board members, vicar and BBC radio presenter Rev Richard Coles was revealed as a board members alongside University of Northampton vice-chancellor Nick Petford.
Rev Coles, whose parish is in Finedon and who presents Saturday Morning Live on BBC Radio Four, said he was interested in the scheme because of its potential green benefits.
He said: “There are two things in particular. One was the local aspect of the project and the idea it provides energy cheaper locally, providing heat for people that experience fuel poverty.
“The other aspect is, on a global scale, this is promoting the use of green energy and that can only be a good thing.”
Several people have voiced their concerns over the amount of emissions such a power plant would produce so close to a residential area.
Mr Petford sought to allay those fears by reiterating that the plant is not an “incinerator” and that there is no “smoke going up, or bad particles going into the atmosphere.”
And last week Sixfields Councillor Jill Hope (Lib Dem) felt the St James residents had been mis-sold on how many homes would benefit from cheaper energy as a result of the power plant.
Director of Rolton Kilbride, Peter Rolton admitted the costs involved in delivering electricity to the local area would make such a scheme “very difficult.”
“But the heat certainly could be provided to houses,” he said.
Rolton Kilbride expects to enter into a full “roadshow” of consultation with the Northampton public in January.
The local community will be invited to attend and meet the specialists on hand to answer any queries.
A full planning application is likely to be submitted in the second quarter of 2016.