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Saturday 21 April 2018

New incentives for energy crops due to kick in next July

Ireland must support the growing of bio-energy crops such as Miscanthus
Ireland must support the growing of bio-energy crops such as Miscanthus
Jim O'Brien

Jim O'Brien

Rapeseed and rapeseed oil was one of the first 'alternative' crops to emerge when governments, farmers and farm advisors began to look around for alternative sources of energy to fossil fuels. The notion of energy crops began to take hold at that stage.

In terms of mass production rapeseed is a relative newcomer to Europe with just 4,482 metric tonnes of rapeseed oil produced in 1999 compared to 10,450 produced in 2017.

The straw left after the harvesting of rapeseed has come to be much favoured as bedding especially by the equine industry. According to various figures it absorbs 250pc of its own mass in moisture, reduces manure volumes by up to 60pc and is fully biodegradable composting in about six to eight weeks.

Miscanthus is also a relative newcomer to the Irish crop scene with the growth of biomass and the need for renewable crops to fuel our energy needs.

To avoid fines from the EU we have to increase the amount of energy we produce from renewable from just over 9pc to 16pc by 2020.

With the phasing out of peat for firing the power-stations of the midlands, Bord na Mona is under pressure to seek out alternative sources of fuel and the favoured species are miscanthus and willow.

They are encouraging farmers to partner with them in growing these crops and a new scheme due to come into play in July this year will see the launch of a Renewable Heat Incentive scheme with a projected investment of €90m annually when the programme becomes fully operational.

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