‘Teething problems’ for biomass energy plan

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‘Teething problems’ for biomass energy plan

Lack of infrastructure is hampering renewable scheme, writes Claire Fox


Barry Caslin, bioenergy specialist at Teagasc
Barry Caslin, bioenergy specialist at Teagasc

The lack of infrastructure and understanding around biomass production will lead to teething problems for farmers interested in generating renewable energy, Teagasc energy specialist Barry Caslin has warned.

Mr Caslin said Ireland is not going to meet its renewable heat targets in time for 2020.

He added that since 50pc of our target to increase renewable energy targets by 16pc is going to come from biomass, it will require farmers to get involved, but the lack of facilities for processing biomass will be an issue.

“We don’t really have a lot of ways of assembling biomass, we don’t have biomass trade centres,” he said.

“If you want to buy oil in the morning you know how to order it; in the case of biomass you might be unsure where to get it.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty around processing, procurement and trade centres.

“It has to be dried down, most boilers won’t operate it above 20pc moisture content

“Many boilers tell you they won’t cover at 30pc moisture and if the boiler gives up after a while, it’s not covered under the warranty. So that could lead to teething problems; getting it at the right moisture could be difficult with the absence of drying facilities.”

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Mr Caslin said he was told by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) that the launch of the second phase of the Support Scheme for Renewable Heat – which would provide operational support for biomass anaerobic digestion – was “imminent”.

He told the recent Teagasc Energy in Horticulture Seminar that the delay in launching the scheme may be due to the government’s eagerness to avoid the same mistakes that sank the failed Renewable Heat Incentive or ‘Cash for Ash’ in Northern Ireland.

“It got a lot of bad press because it was introduced in a way that wasn’t very sustainable; there were no budgetary caps included or no digression, there was a lot of basic policy safeguarding not included within the scheme,” said Mr Caslin.

“A lot can be learned too from mistakes that were made in other jurisdictions that allows you to plan or introduce a scheme that is more suitable and has all the safeguards in place.”

Indo Farming

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