Northern Ireland’s expanding renewable energy industry is hungry for good quality land, pricing out farmers and now seeking leases in the Republic. Rental values for productive grassland in the north coast area of Northern Ireland have seen a sharp increase within the past fortnight as competition intensifies between larger dairy units looking to expand and farmers looking to produce grass for anaerobic digestion (AD) plants in the area.
Farmers and auctioneers report prices as high as £450/acre (€512/acre) have been paid at auction for top-quality silage ground in the Coleraine area to supply AD plants. Other auctions have seen silage ground making over £400/acre (€457/acre). With limited ground coming on to the rental market, the knock-on effect has seen conacre prices for less productive grassland in the surrounding area also rising, with reports of £200/acre (€228/acre) to £300/acre (€342/acre)being paid on leases secured in January. While some of these prices are inflated by area-based payments, there is no doubt that AD plant operators are in a strong position to bid as a result of government subsidies for AD.
Operators of AD plants in Northern Ireland have also begun to lease land south of the border to grow feedstock such as grass or maize silage. One auctioneer, one farmer and one agribusiness representative in the border area of the Republic reported that farmers in north Co Monaghan had difficulty competing with NI biogas producers for land leases. While this is reported to be on a small scale and the sources had no figures available, pressure could increase in the future as renewable energy support schemes become available from the end of this year in the Republic.
Reykjavík Energy along with the University of Iceland and other international scientific institutions have received two EU grants for climate projects to the combined amount of EUR 12.2 million. The grants will fund further development of methods fixing CO2 as a mineral in basaltic rock, now with special emphasis on the sea-bed.
Dr. Edda Sif Pind Aradóttir, the projects’ manager at Reykjavík Energy, says the grants, that will benefit a score of collaborators, are a valuable recognition of the projects’ merit and their contribution in the fight against climate change. Already, nine doctoral students have done their theses on fixing CO2 in rock.
Gas into rock:
Since year 2007, scientists have collaborated with Reykjavík Energy’s experts, technicians, and tradespeople on developing the idea and implementation of fixating CO2 into basaltic rock around The Hellisheidi Geothermal Power Plant. The power station co-generates electricity and hot water from geothermal steam which contains sporadic amounts geothermal gases. The same method as has been developed with CO2 is now also employed to sequester H2S, another geothermal gas. Already, 60% of the gases are now fixed as minerals in the bedrock and ON Power, Reykjavík Energy’s subsidiary that operates the power plant, aims at making the operation traceless in terms of these gases.
Looking to the oceans:
Because the methods employed to fix the geothermal gases in the bedrock crave both water and basaltic rock, scientists now have focused on the ocean floor. There, extensive field of basalt can be found and, naturally, lots of water.
More info at: https://www.or.is/carbfix
The Finnish GREBE project partners Luke and Karelia UAS visited two E-farm® destinations provided by the Finnish E-farm® service using renewable energy solutions for energy production on a farm scale.
A perfect example for an E-farm® destination is the Itikan tila farm in the region of Northern Savo in Finland. The farm produces agricultural products, provides cultural and tourist services and has an own energy production on the farm including an own biodiesel production unit, a wind turbine, solar panels and a ground source heat pump.
The E-farm® service includes site visits to so-called “E-farm® destinations”, support services in form of calculations, education and training. E-farm® offers for instance dedicated courses on biogas and wind energy. Also, E-farm® provides detailed investment calculations and support for farmers planning to invest in renewable energy solutions on their farm. By contacting the coordinator of E-farm®, customers can order visits or tours to any of the destinations in Finland, ask for support or other offered services at one contact point. Also tours to Central Europe can be organized. Companies behind the trademark are Envitecpolis Oy and Savon Siemen Oy.
The concept of combining conventional (farm) business with energy production and tourism has been presented in the Northern Periphery Programme (NPP) area before, the NPP project REMOTE worked with this idea for example. Besides of the availability of sustainable resources, the Northern Periphery area is unique in regards to the high number of remote dwellings in rural areas, the availability of unique cultural experiences and events for tourists. A large share of buildings has either no access to electricity or is dependent on producing energy from fossil fuels. A focus was to provide feasible solutions for renewable energies in remote areas adapted to the scale of sparsely populated areas and communities by providing information, products and services similar to the E-farm® concept especially dedicated for farms and their customers.
E-farm® has a network of farms across Finland coving a wide range of renewable energy solutions including for example wind mills, small scale CHP units from forest chips, biogas, biodiesel, solar panels, hydro power and ground source heat pump.
In addition to energy sales of renewable energy to the market, visits to the farms provide new business opportunities such as additional income to both the farm and the service and increase the awareness and experiences of energy production investments at farms.
More information on the E-farm® destinations and services offered can be found from the webpage (in Finnish): www.efarm.fi
The new biogas plant built at the Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke) facility in Sotkamo is based on dry fermentation and is the first of its kind in Finland. Its feed consists of grass silage cut from fields and yields up to seven times more energy than manure.
An example for the utilization of renewable energy sources
The biogas generated by the plant will be used for heating premises in Sotkamo. In the future, biogas will also be used to fuel cars and tractors. The organic residue from the biogas process will be utilized as fertilizer in crop production, thus replacing the use of chemical fertilizers and cutting down the nutrient emissions to water bodies.
Both research and product development
Its goal is to cooperate closely with enterprises in order to make its expertise available for practical use.
The researchers at the Sotkamo facility are studying the entire biogas production chain, from the field into the tank of the vehicle. Finland offers an abundance of raw material for biogas plants, as the available grassland area totals at least 240,000 hectares. All this is outside of food production.
The yield of one hectare is enough to heat a single-family house or power a car for a full year.
More on the VuoGas biogas plant can be seen from the following video:
Within the GREBE project context, the VuoGas promotes expertise in bioeconomics and gives an example for the utilization of renewable energy sources.