The potential and challenges of growing short rotation coppice willow for energy purposes in the Republic of Ireland
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Burning of fossil fuels is believed by a large number o f scientists to be a major cause of the increases in greenhouse gas emissions and to the change in the Earth’s climate system. Fossil fuels especially oil and natural gas are rapidly depleting resources. World prices of natural gas and oil have risen sharply in the last number of years. Ireland is heavy dependent on imported fuel especially oil, natural gas and coal for its energy requirements. Renewable energy can play an important role in relieving this dependency. By examining Irish government policy and programmes this study shows that renewable energy is an underdeveloped sector and that renewable energy policy has focused largely on the production of electricity with little attention to heat production. One o f renewable energy options available in this country is short rotation coppice willow grown for energy purposes. The willow wood chip produced is used as a fuel in heating systems. This study investigated the economics of growing willow coppice in Ireland. This enterprise is at present at a pioneering stage with high establishment and harvesting costs. Government financial assistance is required to encourage farmers to grow this crop. The application of sewage sludge to willow cropland with an associated gate fee offers additional revenue to this enterprise. In a cost comparison o f a lOOkw heating installation, wood chip heating systems were shown to have lower heating costs per year than wood pellet, oil and natural gas heating systems. Codes o f practice and publications on all health and safety aspects of growing, harvesting and storing short rotation coppice willow are not available in this country. A check list o f the main health and safety issues associated with this crop was developed to aid those involved in the industry.
- Theses - Science ITS 
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