Frequently Asked Questions
Willow plantations support the local and national agricultural community by offering farmers and landowners land diversification with a sustainable future. All our plantations are located within 25 miles of our production facility, ensuring transportation and logistics are kept to a minimum for true carbon-neutral status. Willow is a unique energy crop with many benefits. As the largest owner of willow on the island of Ireland, we want people who are equally excited about our nation’s achieving a carbon-neutral status to join us.
Farmers who diversify into biomass crops can receive establishment grants to offset up to half of the initial set-up costs in addition to their current eligibility for energy crop subsidies. Furthermore, since the introduction of the single payments system, EU agricultural subsidy payments are substantially de-coupled from production.
This allows farmers a greater freedom to switch to alternative enterprises, such as biomass crop production, without reducing the value of their existing single farm payment entitlements. Consequently, farmers may have an important diversification opportunity which merits careful financial analysis.
The decision to put in a biomass crop should be made in light of the current efficiency of the enterprise that it replaces. The variation in enterprise efficiency on farms is huge, and there is a wide variation in the level of fixed costs on farms. For the individual farmer making an investment decision, a review of both existing fixed costs that are not likely to change and the contribution that the existing farm enterprise is making to those fixed costs should be made.
In order to meet our large volume of product output and demand of feedstock for our processing, it is sometimes necessary to source other wood/biomass material. We have engaged with the leading sustainable forestry harvesters to collect remaining tree residues that would normally be left to rot in a recently harvested forest. This means that we do not cut down any trees as part of our process; rather, we prevent waste by using these forest residuals that would otherwise be discarded and left to rot. For context, in conventional forestry, 25% of a felled (cut-down) tree would typically be left as waste, or “brash.” Now, however, 95-100% of a tree is harvested, meaning no more than 5% is ever left as waste. This brash is then processed into chip wood before making its way to our briquette manufacturing plant and incorporated into our 100% carbon-neutral products. This technique is new to the industry, making forestry both more efficient and sustainable.
Yes. In fact, we are the largest independent landowner of willow crop on the island of Ireland and intend to increase our land holding by 600-700 acres per year. Doing so will ensure a secure supply of raw material well into the future. Unlike most of the other solid fuel providers, this allows us to have a 100% indigenous, carbon-neutral product with a continuous supply of material for our production process. We do not need to import raw materials, fossil fuels or other additives that are currently seen in the marketplace.
Willow is a Short Rotation Coppice crop (SRC). SRC is a specialised form of harvesting that involves growing high-yielding trees at close spacing to be harvested at regular intervals (usually every two years). Willow is a perennial species that coppices well. This means that when cut back, it will re-sprout from the stump, producing multiple new, fast-growing shoots that are suitable for energy production. In other words, once harvested, the crop is regrown.
While most other crops must be ploughed, re-planted, or re-seeded on an annual basis, willow has a lifespan of about 36 years and is harvested every two years. Thus, once planted, willow provides 36 years of continuous crop production without the need for annual ploughing, re-seeding, or re-planting. Instead, it is simply re-harvested every two years, and the cycle continues. Harvesting on a two-year cycle ensures we always have enough raw material for production.
Harvesting takes place in the winter, from November to late-March or early-April, when growth has finished and the leaves have fallen off. The crop is typically harvested in a two-year cycle, with new shoots growing from the coppiced stools after harvesting. Thus, there is no need for re-planting, as there would be with other crops (and forestry).
Planting takes place in the spring and early summer, from March to June.
Our state-of-the-art manufacturing facility is the first of its kind in Ireland. Located in Balrath, County Meath, our new facility will have the capacity to produce in excess of 100,000 tonnes of carbon-neutral biomass products such as wood briquettes, firewood logs, wood pellets and other related wood products for both domestic and commercial use. Raw materials will be sourced from renewable resources such as short rotation coppice Willow, recovered wood by-products, and sustainable residues from sawmilling and forestry harvesting.
There is a long history of energy crops research within Teagasc, which commenced in the 1970s in the immediate aftermath of the first oil crisis. It is predicted that bioenergy and bioprocessing will be one of the four pillars of Irish agriculture in the future; therefore, energy crops have a large role to play in the future of Ireland’s agricultural sector.
The development of a thriving energy crops sector would bring many benefits to Ireland. These include but are not limited to:
- Helping to meet our renewable heating energy needs
- Helping Ireland to offset national greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture and energy using indigenous resources
- Creating assured local markets which protect consumers from future fossil fuel price rises and ensure growers’ improved returns
- Reducing heating costs
- Reducing the dependence on imported fossil fuels, thereby increasing security of supply and keeping revenue in the local economy
- Job creation, particularly in relation to planting, harvesting, and transport of biomass energy
- Contributing to the reduction in fuel poverty