20 times more land needed for bio-energy crops

More than 20 times the amount of land currently growing bio- energy crops will have to be dedicated to the plants if Ireland is to meet its 2015 renewable heat and electricity targets, according to advisory body Teagasc.

The body, which unveiled the “energy-crop calculator” at the National Ploughing Championships, said over 70,000 hectares of bio-energy crops such as willow and miscanthus were necessary.

Currently only 3,500 hectares are planted with energy-crops and Sustainable Energy Ireland’s Paul Dykes said the goal would have to be met with the development of “largely untapped bio-energy resources”.

A Government white paper set targets for heat from renewable sources of five percent in 2010 and 12 percent by 2020.

Teagasc energy crop specialist Barry Caslin explained the problems energy crop industry would have to overcome.

“The biggest problem with the energy crops at the moment is the supply chains do not exist. The supply chains are there for fossil fuels but not for biomass. These energy crops will have to be grown on a local basis to meet local demands,” he told the Independent.

“The whole infrastructure needs to be built up around energy crops to get the whole thing off the ground.”

The overall target is for renewable energy to account for 15 percent of energy by 15 per cent by 2010 and 33 per cent by 2020.

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