Well-placed to take advantage of EU-driven renewable energy industry
The new product being unveiled by AEGP in Belfast this week could see Northern Ireland well placed to take advantage of the expected global explosion in renewable energy sources.
It is the main source of renewable energy worldwide and already provides around 10% of the world's primary energy supply.
With the potential to satisfy a large proportion of global energy demands, biomass-generated power provides as much as 20% of the national energy consumption in countries such as Finland and Sweden.
It is a central plank in the EU strategy to dramatically increase the share of energy produced from renewable resources. The EU is also actively promoting biomass as a means of reducing fossil fuel emissions.
The EU 2050 Energy Roadmap is broadly based on the premise that biomass fuel will be critical to decarbonisation, and states that decarbonisation will require a large quantity of biomass for heat, electricity and transport.
As a result, demand for biomass fuels has grown exponentially in recent years, a trend that seems certain to continue.
More than half of the generating units at the Drax power plant in North Yorkshire, the largest power plant in western Europe, which currently produces 7-8% of the UK's total electricity requirements, are being converted to burn biomass fuel, a move that will require millions of tonnes of 'feedstock' each year.
Active Energy Group has established operations in forestry-rich areas of eastern and central Europe, including Ukraine and the Balkan states, and has secured long-term supply contracts with forestry owners and operators to provide it with large volumes of raw timber feedstock.
This raw timber – primarily cut logs and waste – or fire-damaged wood – is delivered to the company's processing facilities, where it is converted into woodchip and associated products.
Northern Ireland's biggest biomass plant is due to open at Londonderry Port in 2015.
Planned by Evermore Renewable Energy, it aims power 25,000 homes and boost carbon neutral generation by 10% from a 10-acre site.