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“Biogas presents a great opportunity for direct on-farm action to reduce the impact of climate change related to agriculture, there are also many other environmental and practical benefits” says Seán Finan, CEO of the Irish Bioenergy Association (IrBEA) and Project Leader of the Operational Group Small Biogas Demonstration Programme (SBDP). “However, biogas production is not widely deployed in Ireland, especially not at farm level.” SBDP will develop innovative on-farm small-scale biogas production by providing support and a capital contribution to three demonstration facilities. Following a circular economy model, each on-farm biogas facility will be fed with feedstock from the farm and satisfy an energy demand on-farm or in the vicinity.
Irish agriculture is experiencing significant intensification particularly in dairy, pigs and poultry. There is a need for agriculture to reduce its emissions. Furthermore, recent Environmental Protection Agency reports on freshwater quality highlight that agriculture is one of the main culprits for deteriorating water quality. “Irish agriculture is making strides to reduce its climate and environmental impact through a number of national initiatives such as Origin Green and Dairy Sustainability Ireland, however there is a need for specific tools. Small-scale biogas is seen as one potential tool” says Seán Finan.
On an international scale, anaerobic digestion is a commercially available technology. The handful of biogas production projects in Ireland tend to be medium to large scale plants which process a high proportion of non-farm waste and produce electricity for export to the grid. “Farm-scale biogas projects tend to be smaller and use only waste from the farm” says Noel Gavigan, Irish Bioenergy Association and Project Manager for SBDP. “There are many barriers to overcome, including knowledge-gaps, and availability of cost-effective solutions at smaller scale, availability of feedstocks and use for the biogas.”
The Operational Group SBDP will carry out testing to understand how biogas can lead sustainability improvements at farm level. On the three farm-scale biogas demonstration sites which will be constructed, SBDP will demonstrate what level of capital support is required to make this scale of biogas facility economically viable.
The biogas facilities will offset their existing fossil fuel bill to satisfy energy needs such as heating for animal housing or electricity costs with the biogas produced. They will also use the digestate material as a biofertiliser to improve soil fertility and reduce the use of chemical fertiliser. They will work closely with technology providers to identify small-scale technology solutions for on-farm use.
Data will be gathered from the demonstration facilities on the potential reduction in farm greenhouse gas emissions, it will be analysed and shared throughout Ireland through a series of events. SBDP will also demonstrate sustainability improvement through a range of farm indicators including nutrient uptake, soil fertility and overall farm carbon footprint. SBDP opened a call to identify the farms for the demonstration sites. Over 260 farmers completed an expression of interest and the applications are currently been processed.
“We want to support awareness among the farming community of the increasing challenges agriculture faces in relation to climate change and how biogas can be part of the solution” concludes Seán Finan.
Contact person: Seán Finan email@example.com
Project website: www.irbea.org/farmbiogas
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