Free EBRI events to help West Midlands rural businesses and landowners exploit bioenergy opportunities

EBRI events to help West Midlands farm-business and landowners exploit bioenergy opportunities

The European Bioenergy Research Institute (EBRI) at Aston University will partner with rural sustainability consultants Greenwatt Technology this Autumn, to run a programme of free workshops designed to help West Midlands rural businesses and landowners make the most of the wealth of bioenergy opportunities within the region.

The workshops will take place on Tuesday 5 November (Grosvenor Centre, Gnosall, Staffordshire ST20 0EX), Thursday 7 November (The Hop Kiln, Risbury Court, Leominster HR6 0NG ) and Tuesday 12 November (Pleasance Farm, Kenilworth CV8 1PR ). Each workshop will run from 10.00 – 15.00 followed by an optional local visit to see a bioenergy plant in operation (5 November anaerobic digester; 7 and 12 November biomass systems).

The workshops will focus on the applications of bioenergy technologies for rural enterprises and land-based businesses in the West Midlands, providing a real opportunity to turn ideas into practice. Workshops will cover technologies including anaerobic digestion, biomass, biofuels for transport and will also investigate local bioenergy distribution options. They will also provide solutions to common barriers such as planning restrictions, project finance and grid connectivity.

Those rural businesses and landowners wishing to take their ideas forward will be offered feasibility studies and 1:1 discussions with EBRI bioenergy specialists during November and December.

According to the Defra Farm Business Survey of 2011-12, there are 6,092 registered farm units in the West Midlands. Of these, 1,130 are classified as dairy farms and 868 as arable farms. Arable cropping (cereals, oilseeds, potatoes, horticulture) cover 356,000 hectares, with grassland and grazing around 500,000 hectares and woodland 26,000 hectares. This represents a huge bioenergy prospect in terms of resource and locations.

Mike Woollacott from Greenwatt Technology said: “Rural businesses and landowners are increasingly turning to renewable energy solutions, due to a range of issues impacting upon their current rural business activities, including the rising costs of energy and transport fuels, environmental legislation and the impact of climate change. The introduction of renewable energy activities will stimulate and sustain the next generation of rural enterprises and landowners, complement incomes and provide new rural employment opportunities.

“In particular, with large amounts of land and bioenergy resource available, the West Midlands is in an excellent position to exploit the commercial opportunities for bioenergy. Such a move has the benefits of reducing energy inputs on farms, generating income through the export of power and heat (either to the national grid or via local supply grids), reducing greenhouse gas emissions and reducing environmental risks.”

Farmers Weekly recently conducted a survey amongst 698 farmers and landowners which revealed that 38% have already installed at least one renewable energy technology, and of these, 75% are likely to make further investments. Bioenergy – made up of biomass for heat, anaerobic digestion and biofuel cropping – accounts for 31% of those farmers surveyed with renewable energy installations, second only to solar PV.

Tom Anderson, Business Development Manager at EBRI, said: “Bioenergy is one the fastest growing sectors in the West Midlands and these workshops will enable the region’s rural businesses to access this exciting new market opportunity. The events will provide a real opportunity to turn bioenergy ideas into reality through focussed workshops and business support. Overall, we hope that the events will significantly increase the level of knowledge, understanding and deployment of bioenergy technologies amongst the land-based sector across the region.”

You can register to attend at www.bioenergy-midlands.org/farming.

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To arrange an interview or for more information, please contact Rebecca Griffiths on 01727 733885 or email rebecca@communicationsmanagement.co.uk

Notes to Editors

The European Bioenergy Research Institute (EBRI)

EBRI based at Aston University delivers world-class research into all aspects of bioenergy. EBRI has been established since 2007 and bioenergy research has been taking place at the University from as early as 1978. EBRI was recently awarded £8.2 million from the European Regional Development Fund to build a new world-class facility for West Midlands businesses working in bioenergy technologies and component supply chain manufacturers to try out, test and get ready for market new products and processes within this field. www.bioenergy-midlands.org

The European Regional Development Fund Programme

The Department for Communities and Local Government is the managing authority for the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) Programme which runs from 2007 to 2013. This is one of the funds established by the European Commission to help local areas stimulate their economic development. The West Midlands ERDF Programme has been allocated €400 million to invest in projects which will support local businesses and create jobs. Priority areas and themes for the West Midlands are: Innovation and Research & Development, Enterprise Development, Sustainable Urban Development, and Inter-Regional Activity. www.communities.gov.uk/erdf

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