Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Harvest demonstration feeds grower interest in miscanthus

April 30, 2018 by  
Filed under News & Business

Norfolk’s new biomass power station is fuelling an increased demand for miscanthus – and farmers wanting to find out more about the crop recently attended a harvest demonstration in the county.

East Norfolk miscanthus growers Bill and Tom Lewis opened the gates to visitors at Abbey Farm, East Walton, King’s Lynn, so other farmers could learn more about the processes involved with growing, cutting and baling the crop.

Bill has around 30ha of Miscanthus and believes that there’s even more reason to consider it as a lucrative option with a sustainable future since Snetterton power station opened last year. “The price for Miscanthus increases every year, as has our yield,” he says.

Miscanthus is a sustainable renewable energy crop and it grows on unproductive land, which means it doesn’t compete with food production. It grows over 3 metres tall, resembles bamboo and produces a crop annually for 15-20 years without the need for replanting.

Snetterton power station has a long-term commitment to using the fuel, adds Mr Lewis. “We’re arable and sheep farmers, and miscanthus is a secure buffer for the farm, when cereal prices continue to be volatile, and with Brexit around the corner,” he says.

The walk was co-hosted by miscanthus specialists Terravesta. The company supply the rhizomes, support farmers through growing and harvesting the crop, and buy bales annually, to supply power stations, which they have long-term contracts with.

Terravesta has a 15-year contract to send up to 25,000t of miscanthus annually into Snetterton – roughly 10% of the total supply into the plant, says Alex Robinson, the company’s operations manager. It also has a 14-year contract to supply the renewable energy plant at Brigg, Lincolnshire.

“We have huge ambitions, and we’re making continued investment into new markets for the crop, which include large scale power generation, and as a fuel for the wider commercial energy market,” says Ms Robinson.

Terravesta delivers a complete miscanthus supply chain solution for producers of the crop and works with over 270 UK growers to serve several sustainable end markets – including heat and power generation – both small and large scale.

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