'Historic day' - Midland farmers to be encouraged to grow biomass crops as plans to convert peat stations announced
The unveiling of plans to convert two midland peat burning stations to biomass was welcomed as “historic” for the region yesterday.
Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Denis Naughten said “it is a very historic day. We are now looking at transitioning away from peat to biomass here in Shannonbridge, the same thing in Lanesborough, we have already started in Edenderry. Today is the first step in that with the public consultation.”
He was speaking in Shannonbridge, Co Offaly, where the ESB was holding a public consultation on its plans for West Offaly Power Station. Manager of the Midlands stations for the ESB, John O’Connor said the said the plan would cost “multiple millions” if planning is approved for Shannonbridge and Lough Ree Power Station in Lanesborough.
“We would be moving from 100% peat at the moment and transitioning out of that over time to a point in 2030 where we would be 100% biomass fuel,” Mr O’Connor explained. “What we want to do is secure the jobs that we have here,” he remarked.
The proposals would see increasing amounts of biomass being used at the plants as peat is phased out in the coming years.
Minister Naughten wants a smooth transition away from peat and believes the process can be achieved while maintaining jobs in the region.
“Minister Andrew Doyle has now announced a trebling of the financial supports available per hectare for farmers to start growing energy crops and wood crops that would actually supply this power station here and the other power stations in the midlands,” he explained.
Acknowledged previous issues with biomass crops, he pointed out that there will now be a market for the crops at the three midland stations. He noted Willow needed to be grown on good ground, but said Bord na Mona has been trialling other crops such as eucalyptus which may suit poorer ground.