Bord na Móna to spend €60m on US plant
Project is part of Bord na Móna’s move away from peat to biomass
Bord na Móna has committed to exiting the business of peat supply for power-generation by 2030
Semi-State energy company Bord na Móna wants to invest up to €60 million in a proposed new wood pellet plant in the US state of Georgia that could be operational within two years.
The company wants to construct the facility to turn willow trees into pellets, which will then be shipped back to Ireland to fire power stations. It is part of Bord na Móna’s strategy to shift away from its core peat business towards more renewable energy sources, especially biomass (wood fibres converted into fuel).
Bord na Móna will officially launch its new bioenergy division at the National Ploughing Championships in Screggan, Co Offaly, on Wednesday.
There is a major shortage of biomass raw material in Ireland, while market rates are also high, forcing the State-owned company to invest abroad while the Irish biomass-supply industry is ramped up to meet demand.
Bord na Móna wants to work with the Irish farming industry to source more wood supply in Ireland, and will promote the idea to farmers at its stand at the ploughing event,
Georgia has provided attractive incentives to Bord na Móna, the company says, including a fast-track planning process and tax credits. The proposed investment is currently with the government’s New Era division for approval.
Patrick Madigan, the head of Bord na Móna’s new bioenergy division, said it could take about 12 months to finalise the plans, and a further 12 months to build the proposed Georgia plant on a rural 50-acre site.
He said it would generate 300,000 tonnes of biomass material for use by Bord na Móna and to supply its Irish client base. It would be shipped from the US to Ireland 30,000 tonnes at a time.
Bord na Móna will also have access to an adjacent 50-acre site should it need to expand production at the proposed Georgia facility.
“We cannot get the volume of biomass we need in Ireland, so that is the only reason why we are investing abroad,” said Mr Madigan. “The subsidy in Ireland to pay for biomass is low, the market price is high, and we have to compete with other companies to buy the supply that is available.”
Bord na Móna has committed to exiting the business of peat supply for power-generation by 2030. It says its newly-launched bioenergy division will be a “central focus of operations” for the company in future.
The company has used biomass in Ireland since 2008 to co-fire its Edenderry power plant. Mr Madigan said Bord na Móna was also in talks with ESB, which purchases peat from Bord na Móna to fuel some of its power plants, about future biomass supply.
Mr Madigan said it was likely that some of ESB’s peat plants would be converted to be co-fired by biomass in coming years, and Bord na Móna wanted to be a major supplier to its fellow semi-State.
Bord na Móna is also in talks with Dublin Port and Doyle Shipping as part of its planning for the import of materials from the Georgia plant.
Set aside land
This week at the ploughing event the focus for Bord na Móna is on convincing farmers to set aside land to grow willow and other suitable wood, which Bord na Móna will then buy from them and turn into biomass.
As well as using biomass for power-generation, it will also develop consumer products such as a biomass briquette, echoing its traditional peat briquette product.
“We would love to work with Irish farmers on this,” said Mr Madigan. “We are currently engaging with the Irish Farmers Association. ”
Mr Madigan said State forestry company Coillte, with which Bord na Móna was to merge before the plan was abandoned in recent years, could not meet its demands for wood for biomass. “We work closely with Coillte, but they need most of their product for themselves.”