10 May 2002

WILLOW WILL PROVIDE

HEAT FOR THE HOUSE

15 acres of short-rotation

coppice will provide fuel

for the farm boiler

NORTHUMBERLAND producer Ian Brown has received a £6000 energy crops grant to plant 6ha (15 acres) of willow as short rotation coppice at Lee Moor Farm, Alnwick.

It will take four years before the willow can be turned into woodchip to power the farms wood-fired boiler. This provides heating both for the farmhouse and an office complex, which is rented out to various local businesses. Tenants pay for the heating by the unit.

"Installing the wood-fired boiler required a large amount of capital expense but that also attracted grant aid," says Mr Brown.

"Using our own energy source protects us from possible oil price rises in future. And even if we bought-in and stored large quantities of wood, there would still be costs involved in getting it to the farm. Growing the coppice close to the boiler cuts out all the extra expense."

The area designated for the willow planting will continue to qualify for set-aside payments and is in an area which has always been too wet for arable cropping. It is eventually expected to yield an average of 10t/ha annually, says Mr Brown.

Ian Brown has been looking at some of the machinery needed.