Under-measured CO2 emissions and the risk of landscapes degraded by feedstock crops have come into focus in a government drive to promote climate-safe biomass.
Innovations such as extracting heat from whisky mash and cultivating combustible marine kelp are among 24 projects to benefit from £4 million in seed-funding grants distributed by Beis’ Biomass Feedstocks Innovation Programme (BFIP).
Biomass’s rich palette of wet and dry sources ranges from farm slurry to miscanthus grass and forestry off-cuts.
But some offerings have invited scepticism from environmentalists, amid fears over land use, ancillary carbon emissions and insensitive, industrial re-forestation.
Critics question such firms as Drax, whose power generation from its previously coal-fired plant near Selby, Yorkshire relies on specially grown wood pellets, contracted from US farms and shipped across the Atlantic in diesel-burning freighters.
The BFIP was launched to stimulate alternatives and bring them to market. Among grants announced this week and ranging up to £200,000 are for entrepreneurs such as Forest Creation Partners.
Its co-founder Dr Matthew Brown said the funding would “enable us to find more places to plant trees up and down the country, fighting climate change and supporting local nature and communities”.
Beis has signalled next year for publication of a biomass strategy
“Working to develop new and greener types of fuel like biomass is an important part of building a diverse and green energy mix that we will need to achieve our climate change targets,” said Energy Minister Lord Callanan.
“We are backing UK innovators to ensure we have a homegrown supply of biomass materials, which is part of our wider plans to continue driving down carbon emissions as we build back greener.”