FOCUS ON FARM ENERGY: Biomass Source of Wealth

Article excerpt

NORTHERN Ireland has the potential in the immediate future to produce some of its electricity from biomass and in a way which will help to increase wealth creation in rural areas.

Biomass, in the form of wood, agricultural wastes such as spent mushroom compost and chicken litter, is a renewable fuel which can produce electricity on demand while also reducing greenhouse gases. Other renewable generating systems need the wind to blow, the sun to shine, the rain to fall or the tide to turn. So, while sharing the versatility of fossil fuels, biomass also shares the benign environmental impact of other renewables.

A joint manifesto produced by the Northern Ireland Authority for Energy Regulation (NIAER), Northern Ireland Electricity and three local companies interested in developing biomass technology, concentrates on wood and sets out the case for biomass. It argues that biomass is required to strengthen Northern Ireland's renewable portfolio so that there is not an over-dependency on wind.

NIAER member, John Gilliland, a long-time advocate of electricity generation using biomass, who has developed a system on his own farm in Londonderry, explains: "Biomass can make a worthwhile contribution to Northern Ireland's energy requirements and it can do so in a way that adds diversity, improves security of supply, reduces CO2 emissions and, importantly, increases wealth creation in rural areas. …