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Environmental and economic case for growing miscanthus put forward at agri-renewables event

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The verdict of 200 global leaders agreeing in Paris that the reduction of carbon emissions is crucial to limit the rise in global temperatures, is good news for the renewable energy industry.

And, with the agricultural sector accounting for 23.5 per cent of total independent renewable projects in the UK, our farmers are key contributors to mitigating climate change.

According to a bioenergy report published by Defra in December, 122,000 hectares of agricultural land was used for bioenergy in the UK in 2014. Miscanthus accounts for 6% of this, amounting to around 7,000 hectares.

Not only is miscanthus a key contributor to lowering carbon emissions because it’s a crop grown for energy, and used for heat and electricity, its environmental credentials are stacking up. According to an academic paper published in autumn 2015, there are a number of environmental benefits to converting 5% of lower grade UK marginal land to miscanthus.

The academic paper concludes that, taking into account the potential to sequester carbon in soils, the reduced nitrous oxide emissions and the mitigation of fossil fuel use by using miscanthus as a bioenergy feedstock, the carbon intensity is one thirtieth of that of coal, and one sixteenth of natural gas from the North Sea, and will contribute to supporting the governments’ climate change emissions targets.

Driving the growth of the market for miscanthus in the UK is Terravesta, miscanthus supply chain specialists, a business seeing significant growth in this sector, and rising interest in the crop from farmers.

“As well as the environmental benefits attributed to growing miscanthus, there’s a good financial case for it, and it can help boost food production on farm. This is the case I’ll be presenting to farmers at the Energy Now Expo conference on February 10 and 11,” says George Robinson, managing director, Terravesta.

“In light of volatile cereal prices, and the need to maximise returns from all available land, miscanthus is a viable solution. The talk will explore how growing the long term perennial crop  provides a profitable income, with minimal inputs, meaning food crops can be better managed, and growers can ‘work smarter not harder’.

“Growing this perennial energy crop offers greater security of high annual net margin than almost any other crop, while reducing working capital and overhead costs.

“Miscanthus requires minimum inputs and typically delivers high annual yields (currently delivering 12-18 tonnes per hectare from well-established crops) and delivers consistent returns from contracts with Terravesta for 20-plus years, offering farmers and landowners unrivalled financial security,” adds George.

George and the rest of the Terravesta team will be on stand number 108 at the Energy Now Expo 2016, where they’ll have a Biokompakt® biomass boiler on display, one that’s approved for the renewable heat incentive (RHI) for burning miscanthus. To see the boiler, and talk to George and the team about the UK’s number one energy crop, come along to the stand.

George will be speaking on ‘Understanding the economics of growing miscanthus’, at The Energy Now Expo event in the biomass session at 14:30 – 15:00 on Wednesday February 10. To register for the event visit: