Farm Ireland

Tuesday 24 October 2017

Midlands farmers targeted in push to grow 5,000ha of bioenergy crops

Teagasc Oakpark puts on a display of willow baling at its bioenergy open day
Teagasc Oakpark puts on a display of willow baling at its bioenergy open day
Jim O'Brien

Jim O'Brien

Bord na Mona is pressing ahead with plans to secure contracts for 5,000ha of willow and other biomass crops with landowners in the midlands.

Speaking at a one-day Energy Crop Information and Demonstration event at Teagasc Oakpark, Carlow, on Friday, John O'Halloran of Bord na Mona said the company was encouraged by the reaction of farmers to the contract offers.

The 2007 White Paper on sustainable energy stipulated that the peat burning power station at Edenderry, Co Offaly, must burn 30pc biomass as a co-fuel by 2020.

Lough Ree Power at Lanesboro, Co Longford, and West Offaly Power at Shannonbridge, Co Offaly, are expected to be brought under the regulation at a later stage.

To meet these targets Bord na Mona is actively seeking new biomass producers. The company will co-fund and provide technical support for growers to produce willow, miscanthus or black oats, Mr O'Halloran said.

The crops can be supplied by producer groups, co-ops or individual farmers.

Under the Bord na Mona package for willow, the company will match the Government's 50pc establishment payment for the first 200ha planted.

A transport payment for delivered crop will be approximately €10/t for farmers located within a 25km radius of the Edenderry plant, while farmers located over 25km from the power station will receive €11.50/t.

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From average expected dry willow yields of 4t/ac, farmers can expect a net return of €160/ac/year, according to figures produced by Bord na Mona.

The Bord na Mona contract brings the breakeven point for willow back from year seven to year three, with the negative cash flow in year one reduced from €795 to €380, Mr O'Halloran claimed.

Bord na Mona has set a target of 5,000ha of willow growing by 2015, which will eventually produce 100,000t of biomass for burning.

The one-day event at Oakpark included presentations from leading technology experts, entrepreneurs and practitioners from the emerging bioenergy industry.

The event also involved an onsite visit to willow and miscanthus plantations to see willow being processed for energy.

Teagasc bioenergy specialist Barry Caslin told delegates that national and international policies and directives were beginning to have a positive impact on Ireland's energy and bioenergy sector.

"Now, more than ever, there are broader national reasons why developing bioenergy makes sense," said Mr Caslin.

"It makes sense to grow our own energy and supply it locally, sustaining jobs in rural areas. Ireland's success in farming food is a great template for becoming the equivalent world leader in farming energy."

Irish Independent