A SMALL start-up company in North Clare is tapping into the growing market for green energy. Its founders recently saw their research into a particularly unusual type of renewable energy come to fruition having developed, it claims, the first commercial miscanthus-fired boiler in Ireland.
Corofin-based renewable energy consultants Ensoleir have in association with Kilogen, the Kilkenny growers’ association, installed the first large-scale boiler fuelled by chipped miscanthus working for the last two months at a farm in County Cork.
The miscanthus crop is not widely grown or burned in Ireland. It originated in China and is better known as Elephant Grass. The use of miscanthus as a fuel is very limited here due to a number of issues including limited experience with its use as a boiler fuel.
According to Ensoleir founder and Corofin resident Fritz Mohn, it was “only possible in the enormous furnaces of power stations like Edenderry as there were no boilers available to farms and medium-sized business for working with the bulky chipped miscanthus”.
It was in this, Mr Mohn, an agricultural engineer, saw his opportunity. He, along with his Irish counterpart, fellow engineer Frank Doyle, run the renewable energy consultancy firm and decided to begin research and development into the idea of finding a boiler suitable for the bulky crop. The work the pair put into the planning and design process was rewarded when they recently installed their first miscanthus boiler in Cork. The 120 kW boiler is not just designed for miscanthus but can also be fuelled by difficult-to-burn waste grains and other residues from farms and food industries.
“The installation of the boiler is a great success both from an environmental point of view as well as for the Irish economy,” the company claims.
“Six Irish companies generated substantial revenue from this one installation in supplying concrete, steel, plant hire, piping and the installation itself with the use of a plumber, an electrician and a builder. The environmental aspect started with the fact that miscanthus is CO2 neutral and that no fertilizer or chemicals were used to grow the crop and ends with the natural fertilizer gained by reusing the ash. The overall gains to Irish economy, environment and society and the potential for the future are therefore outstandingly promising,” a spokesperson for the project forecast.
“We are very proud and grateful to be a part of the first installation of such a boiler in Ireland,” Mr Mohn commented.
“We hope to assist many more commercial businesses and other interested parties to reduce their heating cost with the use of similar systems for green houses, workshops, leisure centres, administration buildings and many others,” he continued.
The project was supported by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland and research carried out by Carlow Institute of Technology as well as the involvement of Kilogen.
“All of our 2010 and 2011 Miscanthus crops have already been sold or are committed to contracts. The potential for miscanthus is huge. We are in advanced discussionS with a number of businesses about installing biomass boilers, we are committed to working with our partner on developing new products for the home and we are committed to increasing our supplies to Bord na Móna up to 5,000 tonnes per annum by 2015. Miscanthus provides a real opportunity for farmers looking to secure a guaranteed income stream from the farms over the long term. This is a growing market and we are looking for more growers to ensure we can supply our growing customer base into the future,” concluded Bill Madigan from Kilogen.