Biomass 'more attractive investment' than wind

Investors can expect to see more profit from biomass companies than they would from ploughing their capital into wind.

This was the argument of Belgian biomass company Thenergo when its bosses travelled to London to drum up interest among investors this week.

And while a company might be expected to make positive claims about its product, Thenergo argued its corner well with a strong case backed with comparative figures.

While wind has been the favoured alternative technology of the investment community, said CEO Kurt Alen, biomass is a more attractive prospect.

"A lot of people understand the wind concept," he said.

"Far fewer understand biomass."

The profitability of biomass schemes can be attributed to a few key factors, he said.

First, by partnering with the producers of the fuel - be they farmers, forests or facilities producing large quantities of organic waste - such schemes can ensure a steady supply of the fuel and a reliable market for the heat produced from CHP plants.

He outlined schemes where Thenergo charged farmers a gate fee for unwanted manure, extracted the methane to produce power and then sold the residue back to the farmers as fertiliser.

"We get paid for our raw materials," he said.

He took pains to stress it was important to give the farmers a fair deal in cases like this, as it was vital to both businesses to ensure the other continued to survive - if the farmers went under, the source of fuel was gone.

The second advantage over wind is the operational time. Investors sometimes made the mistake of comparing potential schemes by the Megawatt, he said, but failed to take into account that a 10MW wind park might produce less energy than a 3MW biomass plant because it would be running at a lower efficiency - the wind does not always blow, whereas a well-run biomass facility can be operational most of the time.

Using these arguments, he claimed that a Euro 15m biomass might sell 4.1m Euro of power per year, twice the value of the energy produced by an equivalent priced wind farm.

The company also attempts to maximise its profits through shrewd trading of certificates for green power production and selling its energy on the markets at the right time.

But even without subsidy from certificates, alternative energy sources will soon be a viable business proposition, said M Alen.

Sam Bond




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