14 April 2000

Renewable energy market exciting prospect

ENERGY crops of miscanthus, switchgrass and reed canary grass on up to 50ha (120 acres) of set-aside are planned this spring by Russell, Baldwin & Bright which has set up a renewable energy department at its Leominster, Herefordshire office.

Planting of imported miscanthus rhizomes to supply a proposed power station at Newbridge-on-Wye and other possible outlets is expected to start this month. It will involve 16ha (40 acres) of research plots once a MAFF grant covering 40% of the cost is confirmed, explains project manager Ross Ivy.

Other commercial plantings will follow.

"With farming incomes so depleted at the moment, the chance to grow a profitable crop on set-aside is not to be missed."

Up to 12t/ha (30t/acre) a year of dry matter for use as fuel is expected within two to three years. Potential customers include a large poultry producer investigating the crops to heat broiler houses, says Mr Ivy.

Planning application for the Border Biofuels power station is still being considered.

Britain is legally committed to drawing 10% of its energy from renewable sources by 2010, by when MAFF predicts 125,000ha (300,000 acres) of energy crops will be needed, says project director John Amos.

"We feel it is essential to enter this exciting market at an early stage." &#42