The UK’s National Trust is pioneering a project to turn useless fields of bracken and gorse into a source of biomass
A biomass project being pioneered at a farm in the Welsh mountains could generate clean energy and create a new source of income for local farmers.
The National Trust project will use new German technology to transform fields of useless gorse and bracken in Snowdonia into valuable biomass fuel.
Biomass is a clean and renewable source of energy, although there are concerns that this comes at the expense of using the land and its produce for food.
But according to Keith Jones, Environmental Advisor at the National Trust, this project will not create competition with other industries.
He said: “The crops we’ll be testing from our own estate are not suitable for animal feed or energy conversion technologies currently available. Basically they’re a bit of a nuisance for landowners at the moment.
“If the trial’s a success, it will help secure the livelihood for small farmers and people in isolated areas, who are struggling with the rising cost of energy. And it could have the added benefit of improving biodiversity through improved land management.”
The research is being conducted at the National Trust farm, Hafod y Llan. The Severn Wye Energy Agency coordinated the project, which is being funded by the EU and the Welsh government.
Andy Bull, Head of Regional Strategy and Planning at Severn Wye Energy Agency, said: “In the past few years we’ve seen a decrease of agricultural activities, such as grazing, across Europe. Over time this could lead to a decline in our open landscapes and biodiversity, as these areas become dominated by shrub and woodland vegetation.
“The new technology we’re now trialing could help to prevent this problem, and while doing so also create more efficient energy supply chains.
“We hope it will resolve the conflict between bio-energy and food production by utilising raw materials which have previously not been suitable for biomass, such as roadside verges.”