Diminishing supplies of fossil fuel, allied to the urgent need to drastically reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, are driving a world-world move to renewable energy sources. At the end of 2008 the EU agreed the Climate and Renewable Energy Package, which sets legally binding targets to be achieved by 2020, to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 20%, to establish a 20% share for renewable energy, and to improve energy efficiency by 20%. At national level a series of renewable energy policies and targets in heat, power and CHP will result in solid biomass demand of over 4 million tonnes by 2020. Further policy development is taking place under the Renewable Energy Development Group of the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources.
Forestry has a central role to play in meeting future demand for solid biomass. Over 200,000 ha of new forests have been established since 1985, many of which have already entered the thinning stage, and are already being harvested for wood energy.
Developing a wood fuel energy supply from Irish forests needs a concerted long term programme of research, development and demonstration, focussed on matching wood fuel supply and quality to end-user demands; for example, heating needs wood with a moisture content below 40%, with well graded chips, while large scale power generation can accept higher moisture contents and a wider range of fuels from sawdust to chip. COFORD has funded a national programme of R&D and demonstration in the wood energy area ¿ ForestEnergy ¿ since 2006.
The project in this thematic area is:
ForestEnergy: Harvesting and processing forest biomass for energy production in Ireland