Creating renewable energy from unused grass with DanubEnergy

A transnational project converts unused grass from floodplains along the Danube and other Central European rivers into bio-fuels, producing sustainable energy and preserving biodiversity.

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The DanubEnergy project uses grass from riparian floodplains to produce biofuels. The DanubEnergy project uses grass from riparian floodplains to produce biofuels.

" Ever since I started working on this project, I realized that the unused grass resources are really enormous. And now the import of large quantities of pellets across the Atlantic is even less understandable for me. "

Bernhard Schneider, Energy Agency of the Regions, project manager DanubEnergy

With the development of a storable solid fuel produced using biomass from riparian grasslands, he DanubEnergy project addresses a triple objective: improving the production process by introducing a new, highly energy-efficient technology to process biomass; making use of formerly unused materials as a basis for the fuel; and supplying the market with regionally produced high-quality biofuels.

A mobile demonstration plant visiting 9 project sites in seven countries has shown the benefits of the new technology and contributed to feasibility studies, examining what raw materials and technological parameters are best for each region. The project was accompanied by environmental impact assessments and socio-economic studies to determine the regional sustainability of the technology. At the same time, joint capacity building prepared stakeholders for a continuation of the scheme beyond the project duration.

Preserving biodiversity and finding new sources of bio-energy

Many floodplains are important areas for birds and other species protected under the EU’s Bird- and Habitats Directives. In order to maintain these landscapes, grass and reed has to be harvested yearly. However, the material is too mature to be used as fodder, and is also too dry for conventional use in biogas plants. When the grass rots, as it is frequently the case, it sets free greenhouse gases.

With the new IFBB (Integrated Generation of Solid Fuel and Biogas from Biomass) technology, the harvested material can still be used. It is separated into its solid components, which are further processed and transformed into solid fuel pellets, and into a fluid which is fermented in biogas plants to produce electricity. Here it replaces maize. Biogas plants need to reduce the share of maize used as input material, as it is too valuable and expensive for energy production.

Over the course of the project, an increase in the number of species was registered in the grasslands under observation, as shown in a study for a floodplain in the Lainsitz valley at the Austrian-Czech border (Schmidt, A., A botanical analysis of pilot study areas in floodplains of the river Lainsitz, Gmünd 2013).

Total investment and EU funding

Total budget of the project “Improving eco-efficiency of bio-energy production and supply in riparian areas of the Danube river basin and other floodplains in Central Europe – DANUBENERGY” is EUR 1 777 824 with the EU’s European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) contributing EUR 1 381 677 through the “Central Europe” Operational Programme for the 2007-2013 programming period.

Draft date

19/12/2014