Brothers hail willow as potential energy source
A MAJOR demonstration on willow as an energy source and an attractive crop is being mounted by Farrelly Willow.
The company, which is run by Patrick and Peter Farrelly at Kells, Co Meath, has invested heavily in growing, harvesting, drying, storage and processing of willow. Their entrepreneurship won them the overall award in this year's JFC Innovation Awards.
More than 2,000ac of willow are currently being grown by farmers on contract to Farrelly Willow, of which around 800ac will be harvested for the first time over the coming winter and spring. The company plans to expand to 20,000ac over the next few years.
Visitors to the Farrelly Willow exhibit will see demonstrations on planting the crop and on cutting it back after the first year. There will also be information on the economics of willow growing and on the huge potential for the crop as an energy source for power generation, commercial and residential heating.
Patrick Farrelly said the requirement on the three peat-powered generating stations in the midlands to co-fire their peat fuel with a 30pc input of biomass by 2015 offers huge potential for willow.
"This co-firing requirement will lead to a demand of around 900,000t of biomass by 2015 or the equivalent of well over 100,000ac, of which willow will form a very high proportion.
"It is vital our policymakers create the right economic environment to enable farmers to deliver this potential," Mr Farrelly said.