3 November 1995

Scots wood power waiting in wings…

WOOD-POWERED electricity is a Scottish industry waiting to happen. Government help is needed to kickstart large-scale production, but growers can make money without that help if they plan carefully, says a leading enthusiast.

John Seed, who farms at Woodend, near Duns, in the Scottish Borders, is also chairman of Border Biofuels. He believes the government missed a golden opportunity by failing to grant a single licence for wood power under the first Scottish Renewables Order last year.

He hopes next years SRO and None-Fossil Fuel Orders will offer more for the whole of the UK. "I hope it suggests a commitment to several hundred MegaWatts of wood-generated power. That will speed its development and create a larger demand."

Those that did succeed are in the wrong place, he says. "The 19mW of power from SRC awarded in the last NFFO round should generate thousands of hectares of coppice. But it hasnt happened yet. It cant be sensible to target intensive arable areas like Yorkshire and expect people to grow coppice."

Arable farmers in the Borders are better-placed, he maintains. A Border Biofuels feasibility study showed growers were prepared to plant 1-2% of their land with coppice, more than enough to supply the proposed power station in the Border town of St Boswells.

"We would have planted 200ha this spring, which would have developed into 1500ha over the next five years," says Mr Seed.

Instead, short rotation coppice is "struggling on" in the Borders, he says, with 36ha (89 acres) in the ground. "Growers are unwilling to plant large areas at the moment. It is a long-term commitment. And wheat and other arable crops are paying very well. The impact of GATT will make SRC viable in the long term but it needs a leg-up to reduce the uncertainty now."

off the ground now.

"Wood as a fuel offers farmers a great opportunity. It fits arable labour profiles, doesnt need much new equipment and skills and there is a steady demand for heat and power."

This Borders-grown coppice will supply a newly installed burner.