Biomass provides a viable way forward
GARETH Gaunt is putting 40ha (100 acres) of Carishead Farms, Sicklinghall, near Wetherby, into coppice willow over the next two years. With agriculture in its current state, biomass is a way forward, he believes.
The government wants to cut carbon dioxide emissions and increase electricity from renewable energy sources to 12% by 2010, he notes. "I cannot see how this can be achieved other than by coppicing." Seeing bulldozers at work on the ARBRE site and knowing the project was going ahead encouraged him to become involved.
"The thing that has always worried us is that the project is heavily reliant on subsidies." But he does not envisage the EU, which part funds it, pulling the plug on area payments. "They may not be set-aside in future, but some form of environmental payment."
Returns under ARBRE will be equivalent to a 7t/ha (2.8t/acre) wheat crop, he estimates.
The project needs 2000ha (5000 acres) in short rotation. "It only needs one or two big boys to become involved and the quota will be taken up", he says. "It is an exciting project. I hope it is successful and becomes the forerunner of other generating plants throughout the country".