Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
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Forestry as a renewable energy source: scoping project launched

Forestry as a renewable energy source: scoping project launched

DEPARTMENT FOR ENVIRONMENT, FOOD AND RURAL AFFAIRS News Release (307/08) issued by COI News Distribution Service. 17 September 2008

Around £1.5 million of funding for a three year research project to examine the feasibility of short rotation forestry as a viable renewable energy source was announced today by Defra.

The project will establish a number of sites where intensive research will be carried out and operational-scale plots will be planted. The species will include both native and naturalised broadleaved trees along with other species with the potential to be used for biomass, such as eucalyptus.

The plots will be monitored to establish the environmental impacts and sustainability of short rotation forestry as a renewable energy source. Forestry Commission England will work closely with Defra to set up the project which will provide ongoing monitoring and scientific data on hydrology, carbon balance, economic viability, biodiversity, and possible environmental risks such as the impact of the project on landscape and biodiversity

Monitoring and evaluation will also be linked to the results of short rotation forestry trials in Scotland which are currently being established.

Notes for Editors

1. This research project is to consider the commercial feasibility of fast growing tree species that are suitable for harvesting at between 6-10 years old, rather than a 20 plus year growth period for conventional forestry or 3-4 years for short rotation coppice.

2. The Renewable Energy Strategy consultation document specifically identifies the potential of short rotation forestry for energy generation. This project takes forward the proposal contained within the consultation document to work with the industry to conduct the field-scale trials required in order to assess the environmental impacts of short rotation forestry species.

3. Defra currently supports the cultivation of perennial energy crops for heat and power use through the Energy Crops Scheme under the Rural Development Programme for England 2007-2013. Under the scheme, growers receive support of 40% of the establishment costs of miscanthus and short rotation coppice, primarily willow.

4. The Forestry Commission has stated that short rotation forestry's contribution to the availability of biomass should be set in the context of existing sustainability criteria, forestry standards and policy objectives. Any trial should undergo the same scrutiny at the inception stage to ensure appropriate design and be compliant with the UK Forestry Standards. In particular, Environmental Impact Assessment regulations would apply. It also needs to comply with the 'principle' given in the Government's Strategy for England's Trees, Woods and Forests of 'the right tree in the right place'. For further information, please refer to the following links: http://www.forestry.gov.uk/PDF/fcfc001.pdf/$FILE/fcfc001.pdf. and http://www.defra.gov.uk/wildlife-countryside/rddteam/forestry.htm

5. Links Renewable Energy Strategy consultation UKFS: http://renewableconsultation.berr.gov.uk/consultation/consultation_summary

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