A new study shows that planting energy crops such as short rotation coppice on vacant agricultural land in England can help to produce sufficient biomass for meeting the renewable energy objectives.
The study, conducted by Gail Taylor, a professor of plant biology at University of Southampton and UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC), is aimed at the use of unused land in an efficient way to enable production of enough biomass for meeting around four percent of the electricity demand in the UK.
Bioenergy plays a significant part in UK’s commitment towards meeting the 30 % demand of electricity and 15 % of all energy by 2020. Currently, the energy crops are able to produce only about 0.1 % of electricity.
The UKERC study suggests that the biofuels can be produced from coppice crops (lignocellulosic crops) using the new technology. Researchers created settings based on four conditions to analyze UK’s biomass supply from lignocellulosic crops. The conditions, on which crops need to be grown, are profit return, impact on ecosystem and food production without disrupting alternative land uses.
The study has been performed on 46 land designations using spatially referenced agricultural land classification (ACL) grades, which are based on various factors, such as soil, climate and site and GIS.
The results from UKERC research shows that more than 39 % of the land cannot be used for planting short rotation bioenergy crops because of legislative and agronomic limitations. However, marginal land is found in England, which will produce biomass of 7.5 million tons capacity. This amount will be sufficient to generate nearly 1 % of energy in the UK.