In Scotland, Danes convert whisky to energy

In Scotland, Danes convert whisky to energy

In the town of Rothes, Scotland, a biomass-fuelled power plant generates enough electricity to supply 9,000 households with the help of 115,000 tons of draff from local whisky distilleries. Danish company Aalborg Energie Technik A/S has supplied the turnkey power plant.

In the middle of the northern Scottish highlands stands a biomass-fuelled combined heat and power plant supplied by Danish company Aalborg Energie Technik a/s.

The plant produces electricity and heat through the burning of 115,00 tons of draff, a by-product from the many local whisky distilleries, mixed with 60,000 tons of wood chips.

The plant is just one of two that the Northern Jutland company has supplied abroad.

”Every plant is tailored to local conditions. In the Scottish case, the draff must dry before it can be burned, so we’ve supplied a drying facility that utilises the excess heat from the power production,” says Director Hans Erik Askou.

The company has also supplied power plants to countries such as France, England, Italy, Austria and not least Germany, which is where the company initially focussed its efforts.

”We built our first plant in Germany in a consortium with the German company Siemens, and when we started out, we largely focussed on Germany, which is also indicated by our name. In Denmark, we’ve only built two plants. One in Randers and one in Rønne on the island of Bornholm, in both cases converting coal-fired power plants to bioenergy plants,” says Hans Erik Askou.

But Aalborg Technik a/s is not alone in securing Danish exports of bioenergy.

1,200 Danish companies work solely or partially with bioenergy. They have a total revenue related to bioenergy of DKK 25 billion, exports worth DKK 8 billion and create 11,500 jobs.

This is revealed in kortlægning af bioenergiklyngen carried out by the FORCE Technology and Innovationsnetværket for Biomasse (INBIOM)).

”There is a tendency to forget bioenergy when we talk about green transformation. The survey shows that bioenergy is of great significance for Denmark – both in terms of employment and exports,” says Troels Ranis, director of the Danish Energy Industries Federation, which the Danish Bioenergy Association is part of.

It is the first time that a survey of the significance of the bioenergy cluster for Denmark’s financial activity has been carried out, and it reveals that the cluster is the second largest exporter of green energy technology, following wind energy.

”The industry largely consists of small and medium-sized businesses and has no giants like the wind energy industry does with companies such as Vestas. That’s perhaps why the significance of the industry is less widely recognised,” says Troels Ranis.

The strong position must be secured by continuously developing technological solutions within bioenergy, the director believes.

”The companies today have a strong position in the exports market. If we’re to maintain and expand this position, it requires that there is constantly research and development taking place within the field of bioenergy,” says Troels Ranis.

At Aalborg Energie Technik a/s, Hans Erik Askou also expects that the future will bring even more growth to the North Jutland company.

”In 2016, we had a turnover of DKK 440 million. That gave us a growth of 70 per cent compared to the previous year, and this year we expect to grow a further 50 per cent,” says the director.

The company has also increased its team of employees from 100 in 2015 to 150 in 2016 and the order books could handle another 50 employees. Nevertheless, the director is a slightly hesitant.

”Expanding so quickly does not come without cost. It’s demanding for employees to provide the new recruits with the conditions they need. But we would like to hire more foreigners. Particularly those with backgrounds in the countries we export to,” says Hans Erik Askou.

He hopes that politicians will set a steady course in relation to the framework conditions of bioenergy.

”We cannot compete with the price of fossil fuels, and we therefore need a swift course of action in relation to support schemes that the investors can count on,” says Hans Erik Askou.

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