Thursday, 23 September 2010

Green & Gold - can Ireland lead the world in Clean Energy?

John Travers has authored a book on the prospects of Ireland as a world leader in Clean Energy technology.
The book speaks in plain English, and will appeal to a wide audience outside the technical and engineering domains.
It goes through all the main forms of renewable energy, explains the technology with illustrations and discusses the resource in both a general way and as potentially applied in the Irish energy sector.
The book achieves the enviable feat of maintaining an upbeat and optimistic tone, while keeping a lid on the extent of future renewable energy resource exploitation.
It is peppered with anecdotes, such as the night of the "Big Wind" in 1839, the most devestating storm in recorded Irish history.
It doesnt shirk the thorny topic of nuclear energy, explaining again in non-technical lingo the concepts of nuclear energy and its history in Ireland.
And what of biofuels, a thing Travers knows a thing or two about as CEO of a biofuel company? He outlines how Ireland could source 10 to 12% of its transport fuel needs from indigenous resources, and explains the various feedstocks and technologies that can be used to meet that target.

Looking to the future of renewable energy, Travers outlines some carrot and stick incentives to use renewables to meet 20% of Irish energy needs by 2020 and postulates that 80% could be met by 2050. To do so would exceed the EU legislation that sets out a 16% renewable energy target for Ireland by 2020.
The proposals are considered and do address the main barriers to renewable energy - grid connection difficulties, access to finance, extremely protracted and difficult planning environment and lack of public acceptance, to name but a few.

It is a good read, and will have appeal to a wide group of readers from policy-makers to investors to students.
It is available to order online here.

Monday, 30 August 2010

Joe Barry delivers verdict on forestry cuts

Appearing in the farming indo last week (24th Aug), Joe Barry, seasoned journalist and forestry expert has shed light on the forestry plans and budget of the Dept of Agriculture.
According to Joe, the forestry budget drops from €104m this year to €84m for the next five years.
This means there is little chance of achieving afforestation targets of 10,000 ha/year.
While I am unsure how some of the more colourful ideas (getting rid of the senate) would solve the defecit in our national forestry budget, the message is loud and clear:
"Growing our own timber is the perfect, sustainable, renewable means of producing the raw materials for construction and fuel.... Forestry is delivering an excellent return to the exchequer."
Public support for afforestation and maintenance of forests must be maintainted.
Read Joe's article here

Thursday, 19 August 2010

America says no - Ireland says YES to biomass

A full-page article appeared in the Sunday Times on 15th August under the heading "America says no to biomass". It concerns a planned 50MW biomass power station in Massachusets. The plant would power 45,000 homes with a carbon-neutral biomass supply.
The principal cause for objection is that the plant would "destroy" trees, and it is referred to as an incinerator.

The objectors seem to not accept the fact that trees are a renewable crop. This reeks of NIMBYism. Burning trees for energy use is a perfectly reasonable use of biomass resources, as is the printing of newspapers. The carbon-dioxide emitted during the burning of wood is sequestered by the trees as they grow, in a sustainable carbon cycle.

Objectors have also seized upon a report from the Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences, who provide the following helpful update on their Biomass Sustainability and Carbon Policy Study: "Manomet has issued a statement to aid in the interpretation of some of the misleading press coverage that followed the release of the report...One commonly used press headline has been ‘wood worse than coal’ for GHG emissions or for ‘the environment.’ This is an inaccurate interpretation of our findings."

The term incinerator is a rather negative way to describe a biomass power plant. Would a coal power plant be referred to as an incinerator? If we do not embrace biomass as a renewabe fuel for electricity, then, indeed, coal and peat "incinerators" are the very real prospect of our future electricity needs.
In Ireland, the main use of biomass in the electricity sector will be the displacement of peat and coal in our existing power plants with 30% biomass fuel by 2015.
This will be done from a combination of sustainable Irish biomass fuels. Biomass will come from well managed farm forests, from new energy crops such as willow and miscanthus and from other sustainable biomass.