Bord na Móna are working with the Department of Agriculture to introduce a new agriculture scheme that will incentivise farmers to grow energy crops for power stations, as the company continues to move away from burning peat.
Bord na Móna CEO Mike Quinn has said “We have been talking to Government about launching a willow scheme that would help the farmers establish the crop. Once the crop is established – willow for example – you can start harvesting from the end of year two or year three. Then you get a crop every second year after that”.
Along with willow, farmers could also have the option to grow eucalyptus as an energy crop.
“Eucalyptus is a typically fast-growing tree, you can get a forest for harvesting from between 8-12 years, whereas the traditional tree takes 25 years to grow,” he said.
“The nice thing about eucalyptus is the yield is quite good and the growing period is half of that of your traditional tree, so it’s very suitable for our product.”
Bord na Móna are looking for the Department to offer a substantial figure to financially incentivise farmers nationwide to consider switching from cereal crops.
“There was a similar scheme offered before of €200/ac but it didn’t get the take up needed,” Mr Quinn said. “Our personal view is we need to be somewhere around the €300/ac to make it attractive for farmers”
Bord na Móna will also look to purchase the crops at a guaranteed price. “There are no ups and downs. As long as you deliver the one to 12t/ac the willow will be bought by us at a fixed, guaranteed price. So it’s not subject to the volatility of the global economy,” Mr Quinn said.
This scheme is also in line with Mike Quinn’s ambitions for Bord na Móna as a renewable energy producer, “If you look at our fleet as a whole – our carbon emissions as a power-generation fleet, solar farms, wind farms, biomass, landfill gas – we want to be the number one renewable energy player in the market and we see a large portion of our future in renewable energy production”.