The opening of the new Bio-Energy (Willow) Scheme 2015 which includes a 40% start up grant has been announced by the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney.

The announcement follows extensive discussions between the Department and the European Commission over the last few months.

The scheme builds on previous Bio-Energy Schemes and for 2015 will focus exclusively on the growing of willow.

In response to submissions from the sector, the maximum area that can be planted has been substantially increased from 30ha to 50ha. The new scheme will be wholly nationally funded.

The aid consists of a once off capital grant up to 40% subject to a maximum of €1,040 per hectare to facilitate the establishment of willow for use in renewable energy production.

The grant-aid will be paid in respect of the ground preparation, seed purchase and planting costs.

Minister Coveney said that given the importance of renewable sources of energy he is delighted to support the provision of establishment grants for the growing of willow to produce Biomass.

“The funding being made available for Spring planting will help to contribute to meeting renewable energy targets and also has the added benefit of providing an alternative land use and income source for individual farmers, with the potential for additional employment in rural areas as supply chains develop and increasing areas of energy crops are established.”

Minister Coveney urged those thinking of planting this Spring to return their applications without delay to his Department.