Cereals 2009: Renewables can prove profitable

Farmers looking for new markets to help boost income will find plenty to mull over in the Renewables area, a specialist exhibition dedicated to renewable energy generation and supply opportunities

Energy companies are showing a marked increase in interest in raw materials produced from crops. And that interest is reflected in the number of companies wanting to exhibit at Cereals 2009, says event presenter Jon Day.

“Despite the difficult economic climate, bioenergy is proving a strong and stable market as growers look to reduce their energy costs and seek additional sources of revenue.

biomass-stand 
Growers are being encouraged to produce more biomass crops.
“The exhibitors have a wealth of experience in the energy market and their stands will show how renewable energy could play a big role in the rural environment and the nation’s energy supply, both now and over the coming decades,” he adds.

The dedicated Renewables area, sponsored by Drax Power and supported by the National Non-Food Crops Centre, has a host of innovative companies attending, including wind turbine manufacturers, power plants, biogas and biomass experts.

Drax Power’s Robert Wood says: “We are really keen to engage with arable growers in the UK because there is an excellent opportunity to develop a stronger biomass supply chain which will provide valuable material for generating clean, renewable electricity.”

Drax’s six generators produce 4000MW, making the company nearly twice the size of the next largest coal-fired power station in the UK, providing power to meet 7% of the UK’s electricity needs.

The Renewables area is targeted at growers looking for new and innovative market opportunities – and many of the exhibitors have pens at the ready to sign grower contracts.

Heat from biomass and biogas

Dragon Heat specialises in a range of biomass water heaters. The company’s David Taylor says: “Farm businesses generally have more heat requirements than the average home, for farm dwellings, crop driers, glasshouses, workshops and livestock buildings. And most farms have a good source of biomass fuel readily available, like wood and straw.”

Dragon Heat will be showcasing its range of burners and explaining how they work.

Mr Taylor reckons a Dragon biomass burner can typically pay for itself within two to four years, faster than wind or solar power. “They are the most cost-effective solution to ever-rising fossil fuel prices,” he says.

“One tonne of wood at 20% moisture content will yield at least 4500kW of energy, equivalent to 450 litres of fuel oil. And if oil costs 30p/litre, then a tonne of wood can save £90.”

Wind power

Gaia-Wind manufactures small wind turbines suitable for commercial and domestic use. “UK farmers and growers often have significant energy requirements such as grain driers, chillers, dairy equipment or other processing equipment for which Gaia-Wind turbines are ideally suited,” says the company’s Kenneth Peterson.

“The turbines are unique for the small turbine market because the design is based on a scaled-down version of large wind turbines, which are powered by an asynchronous induction generator; it turns very slowly, it is highly efficient and causes much less disturbance to people, wildlife and livestock.”

Mr Peterson says the UK has the best wind conditions in Europe and reckons a well-sited Gaia-Wind turbine can, every year, generate as much as 30,000kW of electricity and £8000 of income in carbon credits, energy savings and selling surplus energy units.

Biomass opportunities

Energy Power Resources specialises in electricity generation from biomass at the company’s five power stations, procuring fuels and managing the supply chain.

The company hopes to attract farm suppliers of poultry litter, cereal straw or miscanthus at Cereals to power stations like the 38MW Ely power station, the largest straw-burning power station in the world, generating over 270GWh each year.

That power station is the focus of the EPR stand, which includes a plasma screen presentation and a team of experts to answer questions from any potential biomass suppliers.

The company’s Tim Bonfield says: “Energy Power Resources is at the forefront of the renewable energy market, with one of the largest and most diverse portfolios of plant in the UK, generating 10% of the UK’s renewable electricity.”

Other EPR plants include Eye in Suffolk, the world’s first to be fuelled by poultry litter and Fife in Scotland, the first to use fluidised bed combustion for burning a similar fuel.

 energy crops stand
Energy crops are often suitable for marginal land.

Renewable energy options

Renewable Energy Growers is a farmer-controlled producer group which aims to co-ordinate farmers’ increasing interest in growing energy crops.

It offers support in developing market opportunities, crop choice, grant applications, agronomy, crop management and harvesting, as well as marketing and selling the end product to energy customers.

REG’s ony Holmes says experience shows that energy crops are a profitable diversification for growers. “The crops are often suited to growing on marginal land, which can bring a positive return to income and they are low-input, carbon-neutral, low-maintenance crops, meaning farmers might also benefit from lower fixed costs.”

On the stand renewable energy specialists will be on hand to discuss all aspects of growing or using energy crops. Visitors can see living displays of energy crops like willow and miscanthus and an information film will be shown.

The company hopes to attract new grower members and to find new end users for energy, rolling out the approach that the company has successfully implemented in the Yorkshire region.

Mr Holmes says the company helps their members identify a market for their crops, grow the right crops and match them up with end users. “At the other end of the process, we can provide reassurance to the energy crop buyers such as energy plants, schools, swimming pools and glasshouses that they have a sustainable supply of biomass for years to come.”

Renewables exhibitor list

Ag-Bag

Silage bagging specialist from Wisconsin, USA.

Agripellets

Manufacturer and supplier of biomass fuel pellets derived from straw, wood and miscanthus. Also supplies a range of complementary multi-fuel biomass boilers.

Bical

EuropeÕs leading miscanthus developer and commercial producer for the supply of biomass into the renewable energy market.

Biogas Nord UK

Biogas Nord offers complete, one-stop biogas solutions and is one of the leading technology providers in the biogas sector.

Dragon Heat

Peter Mowbray established Dragonheat ÒEnergy from WasteÓ in 1975, as a private company. Coupled with his farming background he realised that there was a demand for robust, trouble-free equipment; he says most of DragonheatÕs early models are still working 24 years later.

Drax Power

The operating subsidiary of Drax Group and the owner and operator of Drax Power Station, claimed to be the largest, cleanest and most efficient coal-fired power station in the UK.

Enagri

Information source for bioenergy and energy agriculture. Supplier of news, market data and bespoke information and promotion services.

Energy Now

Magazine offering renewable energy solutions for farmers and landowners by highlighting the latest news and developments from the wind, solar, biofuels, biomass, hydro and ground source heating sectors.

Energy Power Resources

EPR (Ely) procuring straw for Elean Power Station at Sutton Cambridgeshire, which, at 38MW, is the largest straw burning power station in the world generating over 270GWh each year.

EnviTec Biogas UK

EnviTec Biogas AG covers the entire value chain for the production of biogas, including the planning and turnkey construction of biogas plants as well as their commissioning. The company provides the biological and technical service and also offers the full plant and operating management.

Gaia-Wind

Gaia-Wind develops and manufactures small, proven and efficient small wind turbines (commercial and domestic) for supplying electricity to properties such as private houses, farms, offices, companies and swimming pools

J Riley Beet Harvesters

As well as beet harvesters, the company is also UK distributor for Reka biomass boilers and also agent for Valtra tractors in Norfolk and Suffolk.

Maize Growers Association

Formed in 1988 by a group of farmers who identified a need for research and development of the maize crop. The MGA is independently run Òby growers for growersÓ. MGA R&D committees are farmer-led and they commission research on maize agronomy, nutrition and environmental issues.

National Non-Food Crop Centre

The UKÕs national centre for renewable materials and technologies, the company provides independent advice and information to industry, government and the public. Helps to build supply chains for plant-derived renewable materials and also develops and assesses the scientific evidence on renewable materials, recommending only products that will deliver environmental benefits.

PlanET Biogastechnik

PlanET Biogastechnik is a leading global constructor of biogas plants. The company offers consultancy, planning services, profitability calculation, turnkey engineering and construction as well as subsequent biological support and sustainable operation of biogas plants by the companyÕs accredited laboratory.

Renewable Zukunft

Renewable Zukunft was formed in 2006 by six UK-based farmers and agribusiness specialists keen to explore the role of agriculture in the production of energy from sustainable resources. After investigating the renewables market in mainland Europe and the USA the company introduced what they considered to be the best technologies into the UK.

Renewable Energy Growers

Renewable Energy Growers is a not-for-profit organisation representing farmers growing energy crops. The company represents most farmers growing short-rotation coppice in the UK and is the countryÕs largest and most experienced producer of SRC woodfuel.

Smartest Energy

SmartestEnergy is one of the UKÕs leading buyers and suppliers of green energy. The company deals with power purchase from a wide range of power generators and the supply of renewable electricity to UK businesses.


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