Heat energy opportunities for farm forestry highlighted

Local farmers can be the heat suppliers of the future by pooling their resources together, and to achieve this Teagasc is supporting several timber producer groups who are already operating nationwide. That was the message from Frances McHugh, Teagasc forestry adviser, speaking at Bioenergy ‘11 in Johnstown Castle, recently.

Local farmers can be the heat suppliers of the future by pooling their resources together, and to achieve this Teagasc is supporting several timber producer groups who are already operating nationwide. That was the message from Frances McHugh, Teagasc forestry adviser, speaking at Bioenergy ‘11 in Johnstown Castle, recently.

The Bioenergy 2011 event is jointly organised by Teagasc, Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) and COFORD, and combines an indoor conference in the morning with field trips in the afternoon. The conference delegates visit an ash forest in Johnstown Castle where thinning techniques, wood chipping and firewood processing are being demonstrated.

At the morning conference, Dr Mary Kelly, Director General of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) welcomed delegates to the EPA headquarters in Johnstown Castle where delegates were invited to watch a delivery of locally supplied wood chip to the biomass boiler which heats the building.

Forestry consultant Henry Phillips highlighted the increase in demand for timber, partly due to EU renewable targets, against the shortfall in timber supply that is likely to arise by 2020. The importance of mobilising the private sector to thin their forests was a strong theme among the speakers. Teagasc Director, Professor Gerry Boyle, Teagasc said at the conference: “We believe that the rapid expansion of the wood energy sector in Ireland will be beneficial to more than 15,000 farmers who developed a farm forest enterprise. Bioenergy 2011 showcases the potential of wood energy as an alternative and important outlet for thinnings.”

Speaking at the conference, Teagasc forestry researcher, Dr Joanne Fitzgerald explained how GIS techniques can be used to develop a cluster-based approach to identify where the private forest resources exist in relation to the location of heat users. The COFORD funded “Supplychip” project will also assess the level of access currently present in private forests in the study area. Dr. Fitzgerald said: “The presence or absence of road access is one of the most critical factors that determine whether a forest is likely to be thinned or not.”