Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Thursday 30 March 2017

Bord na Móna to announce bioenergy grower contracts

Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

Bord na Móna is to announce long-term grower contracts for farmers to supply biomass crops for their electricity generating station in Edenderry, Co Offaly.

In a move which will provide the first major outlet for significant quantities of biomass products, the semi-state body is looking to contract hundreds of suppliers in north Leinster.

Under the Bio-energy Action Plan, 30pc of the peat used in the country's peat burning electricity plants at Lanesboro, Shannonbridge and Edenderry must be replaced by biomass sources over the coming years.

Possible replacement products include forestry thinnings, wood pellets or bio-energy crops such as miscanthus and willow.

It is estimated that 15,000ha of bio-energy crops would be required to supply the full 30pc co-firing requirement for Edenderry.

Details of the package being offered to land owners have yet to be finalised but it is expected the contracts will be launched at the National Ploughing Championships in Athy, Co Kildare, in September.

A spokesman for Bord na Móna refused to comment on the grower contracts, except to say that the company was looking to dilute the amount of peat being harvested to supply the Edenderry plant. This was part of Bord na Móna's new "contract with nature" approach, he said.

Tariff


Another driver of the initiative is the recently announced REFIT tariff for co-firing biomass, which is worth €95/MWh of electricity generated at peat-burning power plants.

As this tariff is index- linked, it is expected that the farmer contracts will also reflect increases in inflation.

The contracts are likely to have a 15- to 20-year duration and will be open to land owners within 50 miles of the Co Offaly power station.

It has also been suggested that the biomass crops will be sown by Bord na Móna, but this could not be confirmed. However, the company paid close to €10m earlier this year for a new fleet of 245 John Deere tractors.

Should the contracts cover the cost of establishing crops such as miscanthus or willow, this would prove a serious attraction for land owners as sowing costs for both are high.

Industry sources suggested that the actual payment to land owners would be based on the energy value of the crop. This will vary according to the yield, crop maintenance and moisture content at harvest.

Returns to land owners will have to match those available from mainstream farm enterprises.

"If farmers are to be convinced to convert large tracts of their land to biomass then lucrative contracts will be required," one industry source said.

"Ultimately, farmers will not grow these crops if the economics don't stack up," he added.

Irish Independent