Renewables gathers pace at Cereals

Growing farmer interest in renewable energy is reflected by the record number of exhibitors from this sector planning to display their wares at Cereals 2012.

For those looking to generate their own renewable power, a range of biomass boilers, biogas plants, wind turbines and solar panels will be on display. And farmers wanting to grow fuel crops for established companies will be able to assess a range of opportunities.

Drax Power is seeking more straw, miscanthus and willow producers for its Green Shoots direct biomass supply programme. Rob Wood, biomass buyer at the firm, believes the scheme, operated with the help of rural consultant Brown & Co, could receive a boost as proposed new third-party pelleting plants come online across the country.

“These plants convert biomass into a much denser material, which cuts the cost of haulage dramatically. The proposed locations for the plants close to areas of production will enable us to extend our network of growers.”

The recent £7/t increase announced by the Drax power station for 2012 miscanthus supplies means ex-farm prices have more than doubled in eight years, reports Keith Wilson of International Energy Crops. “Growers within a 60-mile radius of the power station will earn £63/t for baled miscanthus this season,” he says.

To help growers tap into this market, IEC is launching a 10-year RPI-linked rental or contract farming agreement at Cereals 2012. IEC will establish and use the crop for 10 years before returning it to the farmer, who will still have 10 years or more of profitable energy growing, Mr Wilson explains.

IEC is also unveiling a new venture with German boiler manufacturers and UK installers to stimulate uptake of boiler systems, which provide fuel cost savings and Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) advantages.

Despite the ongoing reductions in Feed-in Tariffs (FiTs), financial returns from solar energy are little changed from last year’s levels, thanks to falling capital costs, says Brian Gallagher of Playfords Solar Energy.

“Last year we were looking at £120,000-125,000 for a 50kW installation; this year it’s £75,000-80,000. We are still looking at an eight to 10-year payback,” he says. The company will have a range of panels on display.

Anaerobic digester specialist BioG UK will be on hand to discuss its novel joint venture package to help farmers who are thinking about installing a plant but are put off by the cost.

The scheme also extends to stalled projects, which have successfully achieved planning permission but are struggling for finance, technology backup or feedstock. The scheme offers a 100% finance package involving a straightforward 50:50 split in shares between the farmer and BioG UK.

EnviTec Biogas UK has at least five AD plants on arable or mixed farms coming on line. Farmers can find out more about the technology at Cereals. John Day, UK sales manager, says per acre, converting silage into electricity is more efficient than growing oilseed rape to produce biodiesel or bioethanol. “It also reduces greenhouse gas production and improves biodiversity.”

Midlands-based Environmental Energies now supplies and installs the MuckBuster, a self-contained anaerobic digester, set up to process animal manure, organic or septic waste. Various size systems are offered to suit most processing needs.

Windcrop will be demonstrating a full-size, working wind turbine at the Cereals event. The company has secured contracts for more than 100 sites in East Anglia for its 15m-high 5kW generators. Windcrop secures planning permission and installs and maintains turbines. The landowner gets free electricity, while the company receives the Feed-in Tariff.

NIBE Energy Systems will be showing its latest new-generation heat pump. The F1345 is claimed to be more flexible and powerful and designed to provide ground-sourced energy to large residential, commercial and industrial set-ups.

The pump is manufactured in four sizes, from 24 to 60kW, but can be linked to provide more power. Energy can be provided from boreholes in rock or below-ground collectors.

Dragon Heat is developing a new autofeeder for its range of rugged boilers. The key difference between it and other feeders is that it will cope with a wide range of material, not just heavily-processed fuels.

“It will work with crushed wood waste or used straw, for example, and will suit our larger on-farm and industrial units,” says director Phil Ampson. Although the new machine will not be ready for Cereals, he expects plenty of interest at the event, judging by forward sales.

More on Cereals 2012

For more news and information on the event see our Cereals 2012 page

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