Stakeholders from Ireland’s bioenergy and renewables sector gathered in Croke Park today, Wednesday, February 26, for a major conference exploring the “untapped potential” for biomass, biogass, biofuels and other alternative energy sources.

The IrBEA (Irish Bioenergy Association) National Bioenergy Conference was sponsored by Bord na Móna, and looked at several opportunities to expand Ireland’s bioenergy sector – including opportunities for agriculture in terms of on-farm bioenergy.

“Mobilising Irish indigenous biomass and brash [residual forest material] is crucial to achieving our renewable energy targets in both the electricity and heating sector,” said Seán Finan, CEO of IrBEA.

Addressing the challenges of mobilisation of our private forestry estate will need to be overcome. Bord na Móna…is helping unlock the biomass opportunity in Ireland as an outlet for material while helping to decarbonise Ireland’s electricity grid.

The purpose of the conference, and of IrBEA itself, is to serve “the renewable heat agenda by improving access to Irish biomass supplies, enabled by improvements to the biomass supply chain infrastructure from mobilisation of the private forestry supply, and also the promotion of energy crops”.

Tom Egan, one of Bord na Móna’s representatives at the conference, highlighted that Edenderry power station in Co. Offaly is set to be 100% biomass-fueled as soon as 2024.

“The biomass contribution at Edenderry makes it the biggest supplier of ‘on-demand’ renewable energy on the island of Ireland,” Egan said.

This means that when the wind doesn’t blow or the sun doesn’t shine Edenderry can guarantee a supply of renewable energy to the grid; this adds flexibility to the grid to install more wind and solar generation.

“Edenderry Power continues to transition towards ever increasing levels of biomass, which is sustainable, and 80% of which is indigenous from local Irish suppliers,” he added.

Egan, who is Bord na Móna’s head of bioenergy operations and power generation, argued that this change in power production at Edenderry would support “sustainable jobs and source sustainable Irish biomass feedstocks over the ‘Just Transition’ period and beyond”.

He concluded: “Bord na Móna wants to secure increasing indigenous biomass from well-documented availability from private forestry and also wants to help realise the energy crop opportunity that exists for farmers.”