Then, Now and Next: The changing face of Britain’s renewable energy landscape

Posted 24/06/2019 by E.ON

Blackburn Meadows is a shining example of the changing energy landscape. It’s shifted from coal-fired power to biomass combined heat and power, paving the way for a renewable energy future.

Previously known as Blackburn Meadows Power Station this was a beacon for South Yorkshire skyline for decades. 

For many, the pair of cooling towers standing proudly alongside the M1 conjure memories of many a car journey taken before 2008.

For the last 5 years commuters have become familiar with the more futuristic-looking orange and black biomass plant, helping to bring change for the renewable energy future.

So how has this site in Tinsley become responsible for producing enough renewable electricity to power 40,000 homes and provide a more sustainable source of heat to local businesses and industries ranging from Ikea to the steelmakers Sheffield Forgemasters?

1921–1980 The origins of Blackburn Meadows 

Energy has been generated at Blackburn Meadows site in Tinsley, Sheffield, for nearly 100 years. The first coal-fired power station on the site was opened in 1921, and the two iconic cooling towers (towers six and seven) followed in the 1930s.

But as the world started to realise the effects of carbon pollution on the environment, and the site began to show heavy signs of ageing. So, in 1980, the Blackburn Meadows power station was closed down. 

2008 – The demolition of the Tinsley Towers

Take a look for yourself:

 Although the site was shut down in 1980, two of the 250ft-high cooling towers remained standing. But with plans for a new biomass station afoot, the Tinsley Towers had to go – with the promise that what replaced them would be something just as powerful and iconic. It would be another structure to make the region proud.

Demolishing the towers involved huge safety complications - they stood only 17 metres away from the M1. The motorway was temporarily closed in the early hours of Sunday 24th August 2008 while explosives brought the towers down.

5 years ago: 2014 – The new Blackburn Meadows is unveiled

A cutting-edge biomass technology for a new energy age.

The Blackburn Meadows CHP plant takes locally sourced waste wood that would otherwise go to landfill and uses it to generate power, which is supplied into the local grid, as well as a source of heating and hot water which is distributed to local businesses. Similar to its predecessor, the orange boiler house is unmissable as you drive along the M1 and at night it’s illuminated from the inside like a glowing lantern. Walk around the power station perimeter and you’ll also find a water meadow to encourage local wildlife.

Little wonder that the building has since won a Royal Insitute of British Architects design award, which celebrates the best new buildings and structures in the UK.

2018 – Installing further innovative technology


We’re paving the way for the future of energy storage with a new battery system, installed on the site last year.  

The battery system – which has the power capacity of half a million mobile phone batteries – can respond in less than a second to help match supply and demand on the local grid. It can be charged by power off the grid when supply is higher than demand or provide extra energy when demand is high, meaning the system can make better use of renewable energy sources which produce differing levels of power – for example when they wind blows stronger or the sun doesn’t shine.

Apart from the sheer size involved it’s the same technology that’s helping our customers to capture the power of the sun and enjoy greater control of their energy at home too.  

Blackburn Meadows has been an iconic source for renewable energy for the past five years and continues to highlight our commitment to a more sustainable and independent energy system for the future. With the addition of batteries to the site late last year, we continue to innovate new energy technology systems to help Britain have more renewable energy opportunities so we can all benefit from renewable electricity. 

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