Biomass holds the key

by Stephen Jones. Published Tue 24 Mar 2009 11:26, Last updated: 2009-03-24
Farming revolution

The production of biomass for power generation holds the key to protecting Britain's natural environment, according the UK's largest energy analyst.
Researchers at Inenco believe a biomass crop growing plan should be introduced into the nation's arable agriculture sector rather than a new "Set-Aside" programme.
And it is calling on the Government to do more to encourage farmers to develop biomass crops - as a way of producing renewable energy and improving habitats for struggling wildlife.
The most recent survey of the UK's farmland birds - a barometer of the state of the environment - alarmingly revealed them to be at the lowest recorded levels.
"Set-Aside" - payments to farmers for leaving land uncultivated - are to be brought back under proposals announced by the Environment Secretary Hilary Benn.
The controversial scheme, introduced originally in the late 80s to discourage over-production, was effectively abandoned two years ago.
However, Inenco believes that biomass production is a better alternative for UK farmers and the environment.
It says that, unlike biofuels, biomass crops, like miscanthus, require fewer inputs and can provide crops over many years.
With suitable wide borders, the range of habitats for birds and wildlife can also be boosted.
David Oliver, Development Manager for Renewable Energy at Inenco, said: "Rather than trying to enforce Set-Aside, we should be encouraging a carefully planned expansion of biomass crops.
"These can produce renewable electricity and heat or gas that could be pumped into the national gas grid.
"Biomass crops have been shown to be both cost effective and can have a positive impact on the environment.
"The main issue is that they can take two or three years to become established so the sooner we start production, the better.
"There is no magic bullet to solve our long term energy and carbon problems, but as a part of the overall plan biomass can deliver against the area we are finding the hardest to address - renewable heat.
"Growing crops for fuel is not new; woodland was coppiced for thousands of years before coal took over as our major fuel."

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