Luas firm Veolia in €450m contract to run plant
French group Veolia has bagged a €450m contract to operate Ireland's largest biomass power plant.
Plans for the facility, in Killala, Co Mayo, were officially unveiled last week by Taoiseach Enda Kenny.
The company behind the project is Mayo Renewable Power. It's backed by US investors including private equity group Weichert Enterprise.
It has also secured loans from AIB, Ulster Bank and Barclays to finance the expected €180m cost of the plant.
Weichert Enterprise is headed by US-based Gerald Crotty. He's also chairman of Mayo Renewable Power, and was once a senior executive with ITT Corporation, and a counsel and secretary to the Governor of New York.
The Mayo facility will generate up to 42.5MW of electricity - enough to power the equivalent of 68,000 homes.
Ireland plans to get 40pc of its power needs from renewables by 2020. Much of that renewable power is currently generated by wind power assets.
Veolia's contract for the Mayo scheme is for a 15-year period. The company said that in addition to operating and maintaining the power production plant and the adjacent fuel processing plant, it will also supply all of the biomass fuel requirement for the facility.
The plant will use similar technology to that applied at Veolia's biomass facilities at Merritt and Fort St James in British Colombia, Canada, which are among the largest plants in North America.
The Irish plant will use untreated and uncontaminated clean wood and willow, which will be sourced domestically and internationally.
The Mayo project also qualifies for the government's so-called Renewable Energy Feed-In Tariff programme.
That means it will realise a guaranteed minimum price for the electricity it sells, up to the end of 2030.
Construction of the plant on the former Asashi industrial estate is due to start immediately, with John Sisk & Son having been hired as the main contractor. It's expected to be operational by mid-2017.
"This project marks a significant step on Ireland's path towards developing sustainable energy solutions," according to Veoila UK and Ireland senior executive vice president, Estelle Brachlianoff.
Veolia employs about 500 people in Ireland across water, waste management, and energy services. It also has a stake in Luas operator Transdev.