One of the simplest solutions the Brazilians found to energy problems in the early 1970s was to grow their own fuel. Oranges fermented into alcohol made a useful alternative to petrol. Since those early bio crop days the world has moved on to embrace the idea. Bio mass, bio diesel, bio crops, bio fuels and no doubt bio power stations are one alternative energy future.
Some are happening, some are still in their infancy but with vast areas of arable land mid-Somerset is well placed to grow our own, with the possible exception of oranges.
Observant readers may have noticed the proliferation of fields of golden plants covering the Isle of Mendip this winter like fields of corn.
Of course the plants cannot be corn instead the cash crop is elephant grass (or miscanthus) that reaches more then six feet in height.
Other potential crops used for bio fuel include coppice, willow and poplar, something that grows in abundance in this region.
Even wood chips, sawdust and scrap wood can be used.
There are two outlets for these products. Either a transport networking firm will collect the biofuels and then deliver them in bulk to traditional power stations where they fuel the plant along with coal. Alternatively they are used in plants at factories or large developments to power boilers that deliver heat and power. Each of the boilers has to be geared up for the fuel to maximise efficiency.
Renewable Heating Incentive
The Government’s Renewable Heating Incentive (RHI) has led to an increase in bio crops use in boilers for the domestic market and aims to development industrial heating and boiler units in the future with the scheme being implemented in summer next year.
Bio crop boilers heat and power buildings without the need for mains electricity meaning you can literally grow your own energy something those with wood burning stoves and log-fired kitchen ranges have done for generations.
The rise and fall of biofuel
Six years ago Somerset County Council embarked on a biofuel project in partnership with a number of firms to use bio fuels in 41 vehicles supplied by five ethanol fuel pumps on Morrisons Supermarkets forecourts in Somerset.
Ethanol is the same type of alcohol found in drinks. It’s used as a motor fuel, mainly as an additive to petrol.
Bio-ethanol is a form of renewable energy that can be produced from potatoes and corn. Unfortunately the duty relief was removed two years ago making its use prohibitively expensive. Morrisons no longer stock the fuel and demand has slumped.
Restaurants, pubs and chip shops in the South West can have their waste vegetable oil taken away and turned into bio diesel. A surprisingly large number of vehicles have been adapted to take the fuel including cars owned by Somerset County Council and Avon and Somerset Police. The reason is simple: cost. Plus of course the fuel has been “grown” in fields from crops like oil seed rape and may have had a previous life of cooking fish and chips.