Tesco to shift to straw power

Posted by Editorial on 21st July 2008

The UK’s leading supermarket operator, Tesco, is planning to cut its carbon footprint by using straw to power its business.Tesco has been given the go ahead to build Britain’s first ever straw-powered Combined Heat and Power plant to meet the electricity and heating needs of its Goole Distribution Centre.

The new plant will generate 5MW of electrical power – enough energy to run eight Tesco Superstores. “We’ve set ourselves stretching targets to reduce the carbon intensity of our business, and energy from renewable sources is a key part of our strategy,” David North, Community and Government Director, advised. “We’ve identified five sites that would be suitable for further biomass technology, and are making big investments in wind turbines too.”

Straw is a pure, natural material and a by-product of local farming. As straw is a renewable material rather than a fossil fuel, the CO2 emitted is equal to the amount it has absorbed whilst growing, effectively making the energy carbon neutral.

The plant works by burning straw which powers a steam turbine, generating electricity. The particulates (polluting particles) are then filtered to keep them from escaping into the air. The only waste from the process is ash which can be used by other industries, or passed back to the local farmers to be used as a fertiliser.

Tesco estimates that it will have recouped the £12m set up costs within six years. After this time, energy generated by the plant will cost the supermarket less than is currently charged for grid electricity.

Tesco has set itself a stretching target to halve the carbon footprint of its estate (as at 2006) by 2020. This single initiative will save 17,000 tonnes of CO2, and will pave the way for further investment in biomass energy generation. Aside from the wind turbines, they have also improved their refrigeration and supply chain to reduce their carbon footprint.

Building work at the supermarket’s Distribution Centre in Goole will begin shortly, and the power plant will be operational later next year. The supermarket has also submitted a planning application to build a second small-scale biomass plant at their Livingston Distribution Centre.