Ireland has the lowest levels of renewable heat at just 7% compared to the rest of Europe, Seán Finan from the Irish Bioenergy Association (IRBEA) said.

Speaking at the Irish Farmers Journal Renewables Roadshow event in Kilkenny on Tuesday night, Finan spoke about the supports available to farmers with high heat demands who want to move away from oil or gas and install heat pumps or biomass boilers.

Hundreds of farmers attended the event on Tuesday in the Newpark Hotel where talks focussed on renewable heat, solar PV, farmhouse retrofitting and anaerobic digestion.

Pig and poultry farmers can avail of a support scheme for renewable heat (SSRH) for both heat pumps and biomass, Finan explained.

Heat pumps capture energy in the air, ground or in water and can be used on farms for heating and cooling. They are powered by electricity.

In terms of biomass boilers, Finan outlined a poultry farm case study where woodchip is being used in a 500kW biomass system with grant aid. Just over 350t of biomass replaced 114,871l of kerosene with an annual saving on kerosene of €65,818.

“The agri sector is very suitable for biomass heating because we have high heat demands in the intensive sectors. There is a support scheme for renewable heat (SSRH) available and generally there is space on farms to support storage of biomass and boilers,” Finan said.

Opportunity for farmers

There is a large volume of indigenous biomass available in Ireland, Finan explained.

“The biomass is supplied through thinning material and residues. So that’s thinning material from forests and also residues from clear felling. The thinning of forests is critical to increase the final value of the forest - that’s the return for the forester but also you need large trunks at clear fell stage that can go into construction timber. So, our industry from the biomass perspective, we’re taking the waste material – the tops and the branches. You’re complementing the production of construction timber,” he said.

Finan added that there will also be future potential for Irish farmers to grow biomass crops as renewable heat demand grows.

For more news from the event and to find out when the next roadshow is planned for, check out this week’s Irish Farmers Journal.