Biomass is the heat of the moment in germany
Alpine region leads fight against volatile oil prices with wood-fuelled heating systems
With all the unrest in the oil rich regions of the Middle East and North Africa, we have again seen oil prices hit $100/barrel and higher. Our dependency on the black stuff to generate electricity, heat our houses and get us from A to B makes us extremely vulnerable to any increase in price.
In agriculture we are doubly dependant on the stuff because we need oil to fuel not only our cars and heating systems but also our tractors and other essential machinery.
Realistically, there is very little we can do about the fuel costs. For the foreseeable future we are stuck with fossil fuel.
Where we could make a saving, and as farmers perhaps even an income, is in the bio-energy sector, growing fuel for burning to generate heat and/or electricity.
Germany has been one of the market leaders in the field.
In late March, I travelled out with Westmeath Community Development Ltd (WCD) to the Achental Biomass Centre in Grassau. In an effort to reduce the Achental region's reliance on oil, a wood chip-fuelled district heating system has been developed. Both WCD and the Biomass Centre are part of the EU-funded BioRegions Project group which has 13 partners in 10 countries from Ireland to Sweden to Greece. Out of the 13, both Achental in Germany and Jönköping Sweden are 'best practice' regions, leading the way in the BioRegions Project.
The aim of the project is to support the creation of "bio-energy regions" in rural areas of Europe.
Their definition of a bio-energy region is one that gets at least one third of its heating and electricity needs from regional and sustainable bio-energy sources, with the main focus on solid biomass. Ideally, these bio-energy regions are small scale and decentralised rural areas or villages.