Biomass gives us some fuel for thought
Rural business experts based in Peterborough are at the heart of an international initiative that meets the Government’s action plan to unlock the potential for renewable energy in biomass.
The Whitehall action plan will help the rural division of property consultancy, Carter Jonas with its own, current research – headed by associate Harry Baines – into the viability of biomass fuel crops for the firm’s agricultural and rural estate clients.
Baines, whose family has farming interests in Rutland, has had discussions recently with Renewable Fuels Ltd – a biomass crop growing company which is part of a larger, Swedish co-operative – with a view to piloting a biomass crop on a Carter Jonas-managed estate.
Carter Jonas is keen to find out the real business benefits for farmers and landowners of not only growing a biomass crop but, with the installation of specialised boilers, burning it on-site as an industrial and domestic power source for a farm, an estate or even an entire village.
Baines said: “Biomass crops have the potential to address the high running costs of a farm or any residence. Being in control of your own heating and hot water source on-site, with a degree of certainty of cost and supply of the fuel, would appeal to many people.
“For farmers, there is also the appeal of growing a relatively low-maintenance, profitable crop.”
Other aspects of biomass being looked at by Carter Jonas include the level of management each different biomass crop requires, suitability to different locations in relation to drainage, as well as how reversible the process is, should an alternative use of the land be required in future.
Baines added: “One of the key things is assessing the profitability of biomass crops – not just the production but the utilisation, on-site or in the immediate vicinity, as a primary fuel source.
“With the Government’s aim for 20 per cent of our electricity to come from renewable sources by 2020, we are confident that biomass will have an increasingly important role to play on the local and the national scene.”
Biomass matters of fact:
• Energy crops include willow, hazel, poplar, hemp, miscanthus (aka Elephant Grass), maize & sorghum
• Agricultural residues such as straw, manure vegetables, fruit and general garden waste can be used as sources of bio-fuels
• Biomass can be a carbon neutral source of energy in that any CO – produced by the process is offset by the CO – taken from the atmosphere and used by the plants to grow
• There is the opportunity for certain types of municipal waste to produce up to 17 per cent of electricity generated in the UK by 2020
• There are grants available to help fund the costs of specialist boilers and installation under the Low Carbon Buildings Programme
• The first straw-fired power station of its kind in the UK was commissioned in Ely, Cambs in 2000 and it now consumes 200,000 tonnes of straw a year.