The current edition of The Tillage Edge podcast focusses on the potential for tillage farmers to invest in renewable-energy systems.

Energy-cost increases have been a huge topic of discussion over the past six months, coinciding specifically with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The possibility of energy outages across Ireland, too, has been a topic of discussion in the public domain in recent weeks.

But farmers need electricity to power critical infrastructure within their businesses, including potato and grain stores, as well as workshops.

A solution might just lie in renewable-energy systems.

Renewable energy potential

Barry Caslin is a bio-energy specialist with Teagasc. He joined podcast host, Michael Hennessy, to discuss the potential for these new technologies.

Caslin confirmed that geopolitical issues are now combining to drive up energy prices right across Europe.

He added:

“Two years ago, we were buying gas at 50c/therm. Today, we are buying it at €5/therm. This represents a tenfold increase in gas prices.”

According to the bio-energy specialist, Ireland imports most of its gas form the UK and Norway.

“We are not as dependent on Russian gas, as countries like Germany would be. But at the same time, the overall pool of gas will be in hotter demand,” he said.

“This will result in prices strengthening further over the coming months.”

Caslin pointed out that half of Ireland’s electricity is produced from gas, and as a result we are very dependent on this fossil-fuel stock for our overall energy needs.

Caslin continued:

“There is expected to be curtailed supplies of gas across many European countries next winter. This is going to have a knock-on effect here in Ireland.

“As a result, we are seeing a renewed interest in renewable energy sources coming to the fore right across Europe.”

Included within the list of possible renewable-energy options for Ireland are: solar panels, anaerobic digestion, biomass boilers.

“And let’s not forget that improving energy efficiency levels is also crucially important within the overall scheme of things,” said Caslin.

“But at a national level here in Ireland, we will see greater levels of government support given to new-energy technologies, including solar and gas produced by way of anaerobic digestion.”

But, according to Caslin, vast tracts of land will be required to produce renewable energy.

“In the case of solar, land will be required for the installation of the photo voltaic panels. Where anaerobic digestion is concerned, it will be all about the grass required  as a feed stock for these systems,” he said.