Ireland incentivizes biomass

By Anna Austin
Posted May 25, 2010, at 1:53 p.m. CST

Biomass power has gained new government support in Ireland, with recently announced renewable energy feed-in tariffs that range from 15 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) to 8.5 cents per kWh depending on the technology deployed, as well as a miscanthus pilot demonstration program.

Ireland has provided feed-in tariffs for wind and hydro power since 2006. Energy Minister Eamon Ryan introduced the new biomass tariffs May 24, supporting technologies including anaerobic digestion (AD), combined heat and power (CHP) and biomass combustion.

The tariffs are to be indexed and offered on a 15-year basis and include:

AD CHP equal to or less than 500 kW: 15 cents/kWh; AD CHP greater than 500 kW: 13 cents/kWh

AD (non CHP) equal to or less than 500 kW: 11 cents/kWh; AD (non CHP) greater than 500 kW: 10 cents/kWh

Biomass CHP equal to or less than 1,500 kW: 14cents/kWh; Biomass CHP greater than 1,500 kW: 12 cents/kWh

Biomass combustion (including existing plants) using energy crops: 9.5 cents/kWh; for all other biomass 8.5 cents/kWh.

The legislation limits combustion to 30 percent of the maximum rated capacity cofiring in any plant until 2017, 40 percent between 2017 and 2019, and 50 percent thereafter. The legislation also limits each technology in terms of eligible megawatts-AD is capped at 50 MW; biomass CHP at 100 MW; biomass combustion (including cofiring) at 160 MW until December 2015 and no limit from January 2016 on.

Ireland's Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources predicts the new prices will allow connection of more than 200 MW of renewable electricity to the national grid.

In late April, the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland launched a miscanthus pilot demonstration program to provide assistance for the deployment of renewable heating systems fueled by miscanthus in commercial/ industrial services, public sectors, community organizations and power utilities in the country.

To date, the use of miscanthus as a fuel in Ireland has been minimal, according to the DCENR, due to a number of issues including limited experience internationally with its use as a boiler fuel particularly with peat, a common boiler fuel in the Ireland.

The new program is intended to support the establishment of a number of exemplar boiler sites, likely between five and 15 depending on the mix of size ranges and costs submitted, to provide important information on the supply chain logistics and suitability of miscanthus as a boiler fuel in Ireland, as well as providing a solid basis for creating market confidence.

A budget of 500,000 ($629,721) has been allocated to the program, which will provide a support level of up to 50 percent of a project's eligible cost.