UK Government has today awarded £37m funding to innovative projects looking to increase biomass production in the UK and aid in the pursuit of our NET Zero targets.
Under phase 2 of its Biomass Feedstocks Innovation Programme, the Department for Business Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) have awarded 12 projects with a share of £32m, including:
- A ‘Miscanspeed’ project at Aberystwyth University, Wales, receiving over £2m for to accelerate the breeding of high-yielding, resilient Miscanthus (elephant grass)
- SeaGrown Limited in Scarborough, receiving over £2.8m to develop new techniques to farm and harvest seaweed off the North Yorkshire coast
- An ‘EnviroCrops’ project, at the Food and Biosciences Institute in Belfast, receiving over £1.5m to develop an app which can help farmers to optimise biomass choices for a given land area
- A Net Zero Willow project, led by Willow Energy, receiving £3.99m to construct, test and develop three innovative machines that will enable the efficient multiplication, planting and harvesting of Short Rotation Coppice (SRC) willow crops, which should boost productivity and result in a lower environmental footprint.
- An OMENZ project, from Terravesta, examining the Miscanthus establishment process and gaining insights into long term crop performance that can ultimately help improve the entire Miscanthus supply chain.
Also announced today is a £5m fund for the winners of the firsts stage of BEIS’ hydrogen BECCS programme to help develop technologies that can produce hydrogen from sustainable biomass and waste. Winners of this pot include:
- University of Aberdeen, receiving £220k to develop a sustainable process to obtain hydrogen from the organic matter present in different types of waste
- University of Leeds which is receiving £250k for their H2-Boost project, aiming to produce biohydrogen for the UK transport sector
- 17Cicada Ltd in Stevenage, receiving £237k to develop technology to produce hydrogen from bacteria
Biomass forms an essential part of the UK’s renewable energy mix now and in the future, with 12.6% of total UK electricity generated from this source in 2020.
Energy Minister, Greg Hands, said:
“Accelerating home-grown renewables like biomass is a key part of ending our dependency on expensive and volatile fossil fuels.
“This £37 million of government investment will support innovation across the UK, boosting jobs whilst ensuring greater energy security for years to come.”
Jamie Rickerby of Willow Energy said:
“The Net Zero challenge is significant and to achieve this we need radical and disruptive innovations. Our innovations are being developed from the ground up to travel and operate on UK marginal land in the harshest of conditions. They are not conceptual designs that only work in theory. They are designed to work in muddy fields in the British winter and with mass production in mind. The innovations use components that have been tried and tested in other applications and are readily available. The specialist parts are designed to be tough but also cheap and easy to replace when required.”
“Our inspiration for Net Zero Willow is based on the Sky cycling team model of improving performance through marginal gains. We believe we have come up with designs that will transform the sector in a very short time period by making small to significant improvements at every step of the way – reducing costs, increasing revenue, improving yields and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”
Michael Squance, Terravesta’s science and technology director, says that Miscanthus is important for UK net zero targets:
“The Climate Change Committee’s Sixth Carbon Budget states that to reach net zero, 700,000 hectares of bioenergy crops need to be planted by 2050 – that’s 30,000 hectares a year starting in 2030. It’s also beneficial to soil health and biodiversity, because the soil remains undisturbed for the crops life which can be over 20 years long.
“Markets for Miscanthus continue to develop at a pace, from renewable energy, to fibres used in construction materials, bioplastics and biochemical production, and more crop is needed to supply these markets.
“The OMENZ project will deliver improvements on the entire Miscanthus establishment process, including approaches to producing planting material, field preparation, innovative agri-tech, new planting techniques, and cutting-edge technologies to monitor establishment in the field.”