UK funds wetland biomass, bioenergy projects

By Anna Simet | January 11, 2013

Seven recipients have each been awarded £292,000 ($469,000) by the United Kingdom Department of Energy & Climate Change as part of a program focused on funding projects that utilize wetland biomass for energy.

The goal of the program, which was announced in October and is competitive, is to utilize plants already growing in wetlands—such as reeds, rushes, fen, grass, and willow—that currently go to waste. For example, wetland areas are currently maintained in several parts of Britain, and materials harvested from those sites currently are not but could be used to produce energy.

Specific objectives of the program include optimization of wetland management processes across challenging U.K. sites, demonstration of an efficient feedstock conversion technology that utilizes wetland biomass, and integration of harvesting and conversion processes into an efficient, cost-effective system that can be used by regional land owners across the U.K. and will provide energy either locally or nationally.

Bioenergy processes eligible for the program included fuel for heat generation (large- or small-scale boilers), power, combined heat and power, liquid fuel conversion, and anaerobic digestion or biogas.

The DECC is implementing the program in three phases; the Jan. 8 grant announcement will fund the first phase, which will help the winning organizations get pre-commercial design ideas off the drawing board and into more formalized project plans.

Awardees under phase 1 include: AB Systems, Adapt, EcoCZERO, AMW-IBERS, Carbon Compost, Cranfield University and Natural Synergies.

Project designs were judged by a panel of experts on a range of criteria including value for money, consideration of conservation issues and the commercial potential of the plans put forward, according to the DECC. Winning designs awarded funding for further development include harvesting machinery for fens rush and reed beds; a system for drying bioenergy feedstocks close to the site of harvest; and new innovative methods for using harvested wetland materials to generate energy.

The seven successful applicants will now receive help and guidance from a group of wetland management experts in the Somerset Levels and Moors, and the Broads, Fens and Suffolk coast area to get the most out of their designs, and a panel of experts will decide which will continue to the second phase of the competition, to be announced in the spring.

In another bioenergy funding notice, the UK government announced it has pledged up to £10 million ($16 million) toward a plan that involves working with seven other European Union countries to develop innovative bioenergy projects.

DECC, Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and the Technology Strategy Board will all play a role in the program, for which organizations will be invited to put forward project proposals in early 2013, with grants expected to be made in early 2014.

Click here for more information on the program.