Finland: Turku utilities to trade coal for biofuel

YLE NewsEye on the Arctic

Close on the heels of the latest United Nations climate report, which urges a shift from coal to renewable energy, the Turku region power authority is doing just that.

It’s investing more than $350 million in a plant that will run primarily on local wood chips.

On Monday, the Turku region’s energy consortium TSE confirmed plans to replace a 50-year-old coal plant in Naantali with a multifuel facility that can be fueled by 100 percent biomass and waste. With construction to begin a year from now, the combined heat and power plant is to come online in late 2017.

The consortium estimates that the building project will create 500 jobs, while the facility itself will have 200 permanent employees.

TSE is looking into whether the plant can be run using solely biofuel. If so, it says, some would need to be imported.

Wood chips to power presidential residence

TSE’s biggest owner is the nation’s biggest energy company, the majority state-owned Fortum. It owns just under half of the company. The rest is held by four local utilities from the Turku region. Fortum has pledged to pay at least 15 percent of the project’s estimated price tag.

The bulk of the biomass is to be wood chips gathered within a 90-mile radius of the plant. The facility is expected to burn between 915,000 and 1.57 million cubic yards of chips annually. It will have an electrical capacity of 142 megawatts and a heating capacity of 244 megawatts. It will be located in the seaside town of Naantali, best known as the site of the presidential summer residence and the Moominworld theme park.

Last year Fortum invested more than $690 million in biofuel heat-power plants in Järvenpää and Joensuu as well as in Latvia, Lithuania and Sweden.

This story is posted on Alaska Dispatch as part of Eye on the Arctic, a collaborative partnership between public and private circumpolar media organizations.