BEI-Teesside power plant by Heatherwick Studio


London designer Thomas Heatherwick has designed a biomass power station for the bank of the river Tees in the UK.

Called BEI-Teesside, the building will be covered in panels planted with indigenous grasses.

Fuel will be delivered by boats along the river.

Here's some more information from Heatherwick Studio:


Leading British designers, Heatherwick Studio to create biomass power station

The landmark building will stand on the banks of the River Tees and provide power for over 50,000 homes.

Combining innovative technology and design, the power station will reduce carbon emissions by up to 80%


A PLANNING application has been submitted by Bio Energy Investments Ltd (BEI) for a 49MWe biomass fuelled power station in Stockton On-Tees, Teesside. The project, known as BEI-Teesside, will bring £150 million of investment to the region. It will reinvigorate a brownfield site on the bank of the River Tees, and create hundreds of jobs during the two-year construction period and beyond.

This project is an innovative step for Teesside, which prides itself on its understanding of technology and industry, and would place it among the leading producers of green energy in Britain. But BEI-Teesside has even greater ambitions for the region.

They have chosen leading British designer Thomas Heatherwick and his team to create a unique building which reflects the scale and spirit of the Tees Valley Regeneration. Matthew Day, project director for the development said:

‘Iconic in stature, this building is sure to become an exemplar of modern power station design; a local landmark, and also a national symbol of Britain’s strategy for Renewable Energy. We needed an ambitious design team capable of understanding and responding to the practical complexities of the project. The Heatherwick studio has brought a level of design and artistic thinking rarely associated with this typology of building and we are looking forward to working with the local community in developing the plans.’

Rising from the flat industrial landscape of Clarence Works, at first sight it looks more akin to an art gallery than a power station. Constructed entirely of organic sweeping curves, Heatherwick has created a striking building unlike any other power station in existence which is sure to become an iconic landmark on the Tees Valley skyline.

With a structure that reflects its purpose the building is, in places, literally green. For a visitor approaching, the building will seem to rise indistinguishable from the surrounding landscape. The exterior is composed of panels, which will be planted with indigenous grasses. The power station occupies only a third of its brownfield site, with the remaining four hectares to be landscaped to form natural grassland. The site is currently barren with little or no ecology, and the project will create a suitable habitat for the rare flora and fauna that return to industrial sites such as this.

Engineered with the latest technology it will also contain offices, a visitors' centre and an education resource centre for Renewable Energy offering stunning views across the Tees Valley. A work of art in itself, it will reflect the ambitious redevelopment plans for Middlehaven just a few hundred meters across the river and provide an important development for Stockton linking it to the Middlehaven development.

Thomas Heatherwick, founder of Heatherwick Studio, said:

‘Over recent decades we have neglected the cultural contribution industrial infrastructure can make to our society. Power generation is now one of the most hotly debated aspects of our political futures. With growing urbanization and more power stations being built at a local level, we need to find new ways to incorporate these buildings into our lives and make them of benefit to society.

Britain has a heritage of building amazing power station buildings. Bankside and Battersea weren’t just boxes to house machinery – they had a richness of material and scale that celebrated power generation. Now, with the impetus of alternative energy production we have an opportunity to make new power buildings updated to fit this age. It is exciting to be working with BEI to redefine this type of building and celebrate energy production again.’

BEI-Teesside will be powered by palm kernel shells - the leftovers, or by-products, of the palm oil plantations. The benefits of this are that no land will be diverted from food production or from forestry for the fuel. It will also provide the palm growers with additional revenue and clears away a waste product that they cannot use themselves.

The location of the project, on the river Tees, allows for all fuel to be delivered by ship, ensuring no lorries will be used in the delivery of fuel. This will significantly reduce the impact on local roads when the plant is in operation.

The planning application was submitted on Thursday the 17th of December. It has been chosen to be a pilot project in the recently announced Planning Performance Agreement by the housing minister John Healy, to help deliver on the urgent need for low carbon communities.

Biomass Power Generation

Biomass is a clean and environmentally friendly way of generating electricity. Unlike some other forms of renewable power such as wind or hydro, biomass can produce constant and stable electricity which is not subject to the elements. This is essential for the electricity network to provide power to all its users. Biomass power generation can save up to 80% more CO2 than coal or gas fired power stations and as there will be a number of coal-fired power stations closing in near future it is essential these are replaced with clean, modern, low carbon power stations that can operate 24 hours a day 365 days a year.

Posted on Monday December 21st 2009 at 1:19 pm by . Copyright policy | Comments policy

  • tommo

    is this for real?

    covering a power station in grass doesn’t make it environmentally friendly…

    BEI-Teesside will be powered by palm kernel shells – the leftovers, or by-products, of the palm oil plantations. The benefits of this are that no land will be diverted from food production or from forestry for the fuel. It will also provide the palm growers with additional revenue and clears away a waste product that they cannot use themselves.

    shipping biomass halfway around the world, that sounds like a great idea!…surely there’s some biomass waste in the uk? and why can’t they use it themselves – is biomass for the west only!

  • Ben Barker

    Very visually striking and memorable.

    I wonder what was the thinking behind a volcano shaped power station in Northern England? Is there a story behind it?

  • Covering it with grass doesn’t make it environmentally friendly. The fact that it uses a truly renewable resource and will “save up to 80% more CO2 than coal or gas fired power stations” is what makes it environmentally friendly. What do you want tommo? That we go back to burning coal in our houses and cruise around on horses? Whatever it is I hope that you are leading by example.

    I’m sure that there are byproducts in the UK but like the USA I’m guessing that everything is so subsidized, taxed, and regulated that they are limited to what they can do. And, why can’t whatever countries that are producing the byproducts use it themselves? Are you suggesting that UK is keeping them from using there own byproducts? Or are you suggesting that BEI-Teesside should be paying for the installation of a biomass power station elsewhere than their own choosing? My only concern is what happens if this byproduct no longer is easy to get or the production of the palm products change. Will the power station be able to convert to something else?

    On a different note I am tired of the green marketing scheme and political power grab that is taking place but think that this a great idea. Way to take something that is abundant, renewable and a waste product and put it to use. Though the design it’s self reminds me of something from a James Bond movie I would love to see the greenery growing up the side of this industrial edifice.

  • Ernst Stavro Blofeld

    I’ve been expecting you Mr Bond!

  • George

    Nice one! Deforestating Malaysia so we can feel smug about our energy mix. Shockingly stupid concept.

    Cool building though.

  • George

    Sean, honey, saving 80% of the carbon from a coal- or gas-fired powerstation is all very well, but not at the cost of releasing 4000% more carbon through deforestation away in Malaysia that you’ve neglected to mention in your press release.

  • George, dear, you are making an assumption that all this byproduct is going to come by means of deforestation or specifically illegal deforestation. So really, I neglected nothing. I think Malaysia (thought there are other countries) are big boys and girls and fully capable of taking care of themselves. Besides that, sorry, I personally don’t trust to much that comes from the UN.

    You speak as if this is all happening because someone want’s to feel smug about their energy mix. Well, the power station is using a byproduct, something left over, not the main reason for harvesting it. Someone saw waste and said lets use this. Point is this, it’s a lot better than pilling it up and burning it because it has no use, would you not agree. Everything has an “environmental impact” so choose your poison if that is how you choose to look at it.

  • jack

    George –


  • saigontom

    @ george

    another issue is the energy and expense required to ship the husks to the UK… unless you’re growing palm plantations up there due to climate change already ;)
    that alongside the deforestation caused by mass palm plantations makes this project seem outrageously dumb, expensive and completely clueless…

  • Zeynep

    Everyone must admit the shape is absolutly fantastic though! What an incredible inspiration for future factory architecture…

  • Steven

    George, I think you’re missing the fact that no matter what, this deforestation is going on. Why not make use of the waste? Sure, it’s not as ideal as Sean makes it out to be, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction, as temporary a solution it may seem.

  • suffin

    Didn’t know that there are that many palm kernel shells in Britain to serve as fuel for this giant power plant… if not it must come from somewhere…at the end it is burnig fuel. A green and nice and unconventional package for a conventional fuel burner (a bit more hight techy).

  • norm

    it’s good to see that a renewed interest in power stations and industrial works is rising. much like the aspiring works of Sir Giles Gilbert Scott. the problem, however, in this country, once you get through planning and value enginnering, there would be very little left of this design. I’m afraid it won’t get built within the near future, and if it does get build, it would hardly look like the renderings.. Ambitious projects like this won’t go very far anymore, just like all the Olympic projects got boiled down to very ordinary works. (yes, including the swimming pool). At the end of the day, quoting from David Chipperfield, England gets the architecture it deserves..

  • George

    People aren’t going to pick up these waste husks for free. They will be paid for them. So even if they are waste products, their sale will increase the profitability of clearing rainforest, providing an incentive to clear more and more rainforest.

    These husks could be left to rot down by the palm trees to help replenish nutrients in the soil, reducing the need for massively energy-intensive chemical fertilisers.

    Malaysians may be capable of taking care of themselves, but are manifestly not taking care of the planet as a whole, with their huge rainforest clearances.

    Although there are some biofuels that have a place in our future energy mix, some algae-based oils for example, most biofuels are a massive red herring, causing far more harm even than oil. Even the UK government accepts this and is lobbying the EU to kerb their imposition.

  • AngerOfTheNorth

    I have a funny feeling that Zeynep is one of my architectural tutors!

    Anyway, I have to say I’m hugely in favour of this, despite the obvious issues.

    As Sean says, rightly in my view, palm plantations are generally grown for the oil, not the husks (although yes, it will make it more profitable). The deforestation fuelled by this industry has to be curbed, but that is largely a separate issue – these husks are there and are currently going to waste. Furthermore I would assume that this new plant will burn only a fraction of the husks currently produced worldwide, so wouldn’t oppose any future reduction in palm oil production.

    As for the carbon footprint issue (due to the shipping etc), this is pretty simple – if the level of CO2 per unit of energy is still significantly lower than that from burning gas, then it’s a big step in the right direction and should be applauded.

    And as a piece of architecture, I’m hugely impressed, it’s beautiful. There’s a real issue in the UK about the public opposing certain types of sustainable energy infrastructure on the grounds of its appearance, so anything that changes that must be a positive. Plus this will be a huge landmark for the regeneration of Teesside, which by changing people’s image of heavy industry and power production would be changing people’s perceptions of Teesside without rejecting the area’s history.

  • Nial Mcadam

    I usually like Heatherwick, however…

    Good intention (perhaps) – Bad concept – Worse than bad design – Sorry!

    Keep on creating things with interesting materials , you do it well!

  • Tim

    I believe the actual question is whether this could be considered a truly sustainable thing. It starts with the deforestation in south-east Asia (or Latin America, or Africa) to make way for palm-oil plantations. Quite sure that pretty much every one with a sane mind would consider that to be not quite an ecological sound idea.

    Then, the wood from those trees is sold as being “FSC”, because there are other plants placed to replace it. True to the letter of the law, but not to the idea of what FSC means (since the actual wood is drastically decreasing). Again, not quite sustainable in the long run.

    Then, we arrive at the palm oil plantations. They usually use an abundance of pesticides and artifical fertilizers. And the pressing of the oil produces waste that is spilled into the nearby rivers. Again, not quite sustainable.

    Then, the byproduct of this industrial process is shipped halfway around the globe. Again, requiring energy, producing waste – not sustainable.

    But then, burning that “organic” byproduct to create energy is considered “sustainable”? Sure, the restproduct would’ve always been a restproduct, but besides the fact that the production process is by all means damaging the environment, shipping it for thousands of kilometers isn’t quite helping, either.

    So to me this is a clear case of “greenwashing”. And I’m not saying anything about the look of the building, or the fact that the “vegetation” growing on top of it is either very unlikely, or a green ornament. No matter how good the design might be, I’d still consider this to be anything but sustainable…

  • boo

    bah, to all you spouting all the carbon garbage. i’am surprised that there are so many mindless drones still promoting that garbage especially after all that has transpired the last few months. seriously, why don’t you save your breath and cut back on your carbon footprint by throwing out your computer, eat nothing but soy products, etc., etc., and chant “long live al gore.”

    beautiful building and use of what would otherwise be garbage. nicely done.

  • Zeynep

    I must agree with Boo.

    I’m not an architect, but I think even an attempt at making factories as such a ‘green’ project should be celebrated. Every green attempt should be celebrated just for trying!!

  • AngerOfTheNorth

    Ah, okay, Zeynep isn’t my tutor, but seems pretty sane anyway!

    And Boo, are you suggesting that climate change is “rubbish”? Please feel free to provide proof, especially any that outweighs the maasive body of research that supports the idea that the climate is changing and that it’s primarily due to human activity.

    Tim, I see your point, but read my post again. I guess it comes down to whether you see this power plant as a cause of the deforestation, palm oil plantations etc. I personally don’t think that it is as the plantations are there to provide oil – the husks are simply a (currently wasted) by-product. By providing energy from the husks we’re essentially off-setting some of the environmental damage caused by the original plantations.

    And again, if the carbon footprint of the whole operation, including the shipping, is less than that of burning gas etc then it’s still an improvement, so IS greener.

  • Diane

    The lucrative palm oil industry is a huge incentive for impoverished countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia to continue to clear land for more plantations. It’s great that the waste product would be used, but mightn’t it just encourage these countries to clear even more land for more money? Are the carbon emissions from the slash-and-burn land clearing accounted for with this scheme? And will they provide alternative habitat for the endangered orangutans and other animals that will be displaced in the process?

  • Palm Kernel Shells are no more a waste in malaysia. In fact the whole palm is considered a Resource, including the liquid waste.
    The Cement Industry is using large amounts for their Kilns.
    Biomass Power plants are slowly creeping up in many areas and shell is a favoured fuel base.
    EX. nearest port for shipment overseas the cost could amount to UKPounds 40/Ton.

  • coat it in solar panels too – it'll look magnificent.

  • shaun

    To be honest, its going to cost a thousand times more money to run the station to the levels needed; its the problem with all renewables. I would rather see a nuclear Powerstation rebuilt and rest assured that my grandparents can heat their homes.