Netherlands-Germany project converts hedgerow trimmings to woodchips for heating homes, farms and public administration buildings.

The Energiequelle Wallhecke project organised a system for collecting hedgerow trimmings along the Dutch-German border region, processing them into woodchips and bringing them onto the market as sources of heat.

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Hedgerow maintenance as renewable energy? The Energiequelle Wallhecke project says yes. © Energiequelle Wallhecke Hedgerow maintenance as renewable energy? The Energiequelle Wallhecke project says yes. © Energiequelle Wallhecke

" By jointly organising and coordinating the maintenance of hedgerows across the Dutch and German borders, we were able to significantly reduce costs per square metre – an achievement reached because of our cross-border cooperation. "

Benedikt Brink, Kreis Steinfurt

Anyone familiar with the Dutch-German border region is well aware of the prominence of hedgerows. And although they make for an aesthetically appeasing landscape, they also require ongoing trimming – which results in a substantial accumulation of trimmings.

Instead of simply discarding the trimmings as waste, some maintenance crew and property owners have asked: “Can these trimmings be converted into an energy source?”

To find the answer, the Energiequelle Wallhecke project was launched.

From chip to heat

The project conducted a comprehensive study to test the feasibility, economic efficiency and marketability of converting trimmings into wood chips that could then be burned to heat homes, farms and administrative buildings. After a series of surveys, trials and market studies, the answer became clear: Not only do trimmed hedgerows look nice, their trimmings can be used as a source of sustainable energy. The key to achieving this goal, however, was organisation.

What the project quickly learned was that individual property owners could not be expected to trim their hedgerows, chop the trimmings, convert to woodchips, and package to sell on the market. The time and costs required far outweighed the benefit to the individual property owner.

To remedy this, the Energiequelle Wallhecke project designed and implemented an inventory system. Hedgerow owners were able to register their hedgerow with a regional manager, who then contracted the chopping of the trimmings and making the wood chips to regional companies, which subsequently marketed the product regionally. Under this new centralised system, the project soon began turning a profit for all parties involved, not to mention the creation of over 20 new jobs for the region.

Far-reaching benefits

Nine villages from across the region participated in the project, with over 30 municipal customers, 25 regional forest management companies and 140 private landowners joining in. When the project launched in 2010, trimmings from 9.4 km of hedgerows were collected. Just one year later, this number grew to 170 km of hedgerows. Over 30 500 cubic metres of wood chips have been produced, providing a heating capacity of approximately 24 500 MWh – or enough to provide heating to 6 000 insulated single-family home for one year. To provide the same amount of heat via oil would require 2.1 million litres, meaning the project has also saved 6 000 tonnes of CO2.

The project’s findings and subsequent programme has brought numerous benefits to the cross-border regions. For example, thanks to the use of the organised inventory system, the cost of the hedgerow maintenance was greatly reduced. It also created a very practical solution for handling the huge amount of trimmed timber accumulating across the region. Furthermore, it developed a best practice blueprint that can be replicated in any other region with similar landscapes.

Last but not least, the cross-border cooperation between Germany and the Netherlands has led to the creation of valuable long-term contacts and a network in the area of hedgerow maintenance and related landscaping.

Total investment and EU funding

Total investment for the project “Energiequelle Wallhecke” is EUR 861 983 with the EU’s European Regional Development Fund contributing EUR 430 991 through the “Netherlands-Germany" Operational Programme for the 2007-2013 programming period.

Draft date