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Council / Not upgrading energy recovery plant could result in ‘catastrophic failure’ of facility

The waste to energy plant at Gremista.
The waste to energy plant at Gremista.

NOT carrying out an upgrade of the Energy Recovery Plant in Lerwick could lead to the “catastrophic failure” of the facility and see more than 1,200 properties left without heating or hot water.

That was the message from a £2.7 million business justification case on the upgrade which was approved by councillors this week.

But the case was dealt with retrospectively due to delays with the process combining with the urgent need for the upgrade.

Danish company Babcock & Wilcox Volund A/S was contracted last year to supply and install essential upgrades to the plant, which will lead to improved efficiency and capacity while reducing carbon emissions.

The Energy Recovery Plant burns waste to power the Lerwick district heating scheme.

The project involves the upgrade to the feed and control systems at the Gremista facility.

A report to councillors stated that the combined annual savings, increased heat sales and increased gate fee revenue to the council is expected to be around £395,000 a year.

This means that the cost of the upgrade could be paid back over seven and a half years.

The project would also result in a reduction of nearly 475 tonnes of CO2 per annum, equating to a nine per cent reduction in its total carbon output.

The upgrades will mean operators will no longer be required to enter and work in dangerous conditions inside the furnace every 100 days or so to break up the build-up of slag, which is a dense rock like formation.

Meanwhile, a business justification case for a new waste and recycling baler at the nearby Gremista Waste Management facility was also approved by councillors.

The machine is used to turn general waste into square bales, which is then stored in landfill for later use at the energy recovery plant where it is burned.

The cost of a replacement baler is thought to be around £325,000.

The current baler has been used for almost 15 years, and initially it was meant to be replaced after a seven year period.

“We are now 15 years down the line and the machine is really starting to show its age,” the business justification case said.

The council also approved spending on a purpose-fit system to broadcast council meetings live.

There will be a one-off charge of £70,000 and an annual £25,000 fee.

Members were told at a session of the full council on Wednesday that the previous plan to move meetings to the St Ringan’s building in Lerwick, which is the current library, remains in place.

This will happen once library services move back to the old building a stone’s throw away, with assets, commissioning and procurement Robert Sinclair saying this could be as early as May.

At Wednesday’s meeting Lerwick member John Fraser said he would like to see the new system set up allow councillors to attend remotely so that as many people as possible would be encouraged to stand in the next local election in 2022.

Convener Malcolm Bell said it was his view that “personal attendance should be the default, but remote attendance will be achievable with the new system”.

All council meetings are currently held on MS Teams, with some members usually present in Lerwick Town Hall and others at home, and the main committees are recorded and published on YouTube.