Mr Ian Paisley, MP for North Antrim, visited the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) Hillsborough in late December 2013. The purpose of his visit was to obtain an insight into ongoing AFBI research on the potential for biomass energy generation in Northern Ireland. His key objective was to determine the opportunities for local business and employment in this expanding sector.
Key topics covered during the visit included: agricultural sustainability; climate change; land sourced renewable energy; and the extent to which the agricultural production of biomass crops had been adopted locally.
With a backdrop of increasing uptake of biomass technology, stimulated by Renewable Obligation Certificates and Renewable Heat Initiatives, Mr Paisley’s main concern was where all this biomass would ultimately come from, given the relatively low level of forestation in Northern Ireland. The advice from the AFBI scientists was that a significant quantity of our future biomass requirements for energy generation was expected to come from importation.
Mr Paisley was very supportive of the concept that local agricultural biomass production would have an important and continuing role in the sustainable supply of biomass for small to medium scale heat generation. In such systems the quality of the wood chip is very important and AFBI’s research and support for this sector has helped develop short rotation coppice (SRC) willow biomass production and appropriate supply chains to deliver energy supply services.
Such enterprises could benefit both the country of production and Northern Ireland by providing increased fuel security locally and employment opportunities in both countries.
Mr Paisley concluded the meeting by stating that AFBI expertise would be pivotal in assisting local entrepreneurs to achieve the full potential of biomass for heat and power production. As part of his continuing support for local business interests in this area, he was keen to promote ever closer links between the Renewable Energy Centre at AFBI Hillsborough and the private sector.
Notes to editors:
AFBI carries out high quality technology research and development, statutory, analytical, and diagnostic testing functions for DARD and other Government departments, public bodies and commercial companies.
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