Mick Cahill (Bord na Móna), Kevin Harte Bord na Móna), Paul Riordan (Bord na Móna) with Minister for Environment Denis Naughten, ESB's John O'Connor and Paul Cullen. Photo: Michelle Ghee.
A public consultation was held in Lanesboro last week to offer information about ESB's plans to convert its power stations at Lanesboro and Shannonbridge from peat to sustainable biomass on a phased basis.
Assuming the appropriate planning permissions are secured and the business case for investment is made with minimal interventions, ESB will use the existing generation infrastructure to immediately transition to cleaner renewable energy by reducing peat intake and replacing it with biomass.
“We want affordable, clean energy for people, so it’s a big move in terms of what we’re trying to do and we see Lough Ree and Shannonbridge as being really important parts of that,” Mr O'Connor told the Longford Leader last week.
It is planned that the transition to biomass would initially be fuelled by both indigenous and imported sustainable biomass but, as local farmers' crops mature, it is anticipated that the indigenous supply chain will displace the requirement for important fuels.
“It has to be affordable. We want it to be a clean, renewable fuel and that’s why we’re looking at biomass instead of peat,” Mr O'Connor said.
“But it’s going to be a transition over time from peat to biomass. That’s a very important point.”
Minister for Environment Denis Naughten was very enthusiastic about the plans, stating that this would be a fantastic opportunity for local farmers.
“The government is increasing the financial supports that are available for bioenergy crops,” he told the Longford Leader last week.
“The objective is to try and encourage the growth of biomass in Ireland, in the midlands, to supply these power stations and a new heat industry that we’re developing through renewable heat supports rather than importing that product from abroad.
“It’s good news in terms of extending the lifespan of the power station here, but really, we are only going to get the economic benefit out of this if we can actually grow the crops locally,” he continued.
“So there’s a huge potential opportunity to maintain the existing job numbers in Bord na Móna, potentially increase the job numbers here in the region.”
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