7 November 1997

Ulster wood picture

COPPICE could eventually cover 10% of agricultural land in Northern Ireland to meet the needs of new wood-fired projects in the province.

That optimistic forecast comes from B9 Energy Biomasss Debra Jenkins. The company has already received planning permission for a wood-fuelled combined heat and power plant at the Blackwater Valley Museum in County Armagh.

The 200kW installation, enough to supply 400 homes, will take two-thirds of the available supply of sawmill chips in Northern Ireland.

The hoped for 10-15 similar-sized projects planned in the next two to three years will take the rest of the chips and most of the provinces forestry residues, which she reckons will supply a further 3MW of power.

Future installations will then need short rotation coppice, she says. "If 10% of the agricultural land area was planted with coppice, that would supply 200MW of power."

However, as 90% of the land produces livestock, set-aside is not available, making incentives to plant even more vital than on the mainland. "Farmers will need grants to help them to get coppice production started."