Highlights from the national workshop in Soltau (Germany)
The second national workshop within the greenGain project was organised by COALS and took place on the 21st and 22nd of October 2016 in Soltau in the German state Lower Saxony. The workshop was held in cooperation with the first international greenGain conference and hosted 46 participants from six European countries. Two site visits, which are described in the fourth article of this newsletter, completed the workshop.
As introduction, the participants were asked to think about questions and issues they would like to have addressed in the course of the event. The queries were allocated to one of three thematic fields covering the topics “Local initiatives and administration”, “Maintenance work and transportation” and “Feedstock Utilization”, and were noted on charts to be visible for the audience throughout the whole event. The following presentations of local experts helped to clear the queries and to discuss them more in depth. Presentations from the event and the full report can be downloaded from the project website or the greenGain Information Platform.
Local initiatives and administration
The first section of the workshop was started with the presentation by Jens Eden of the lower nature conservation agency of the county Friesland (German greenGain project region), on the production of bioenergy from LCMW biomass of hedgerows on banks. After showing the characteristics of hedgerows on banks and their spatial distribution in the county, he elaborated the features of the financial programs supporting the maintenance of these landscape structures. To finalise, Mr. Eden informed that until 2014 the collected biomass was burned in traditional Easter fires. However, due to a new legal regulation restricting these fires and in collaboration with local actors and the greenGain project, the county Friesland aims to set up a new utilisation pathway for this LCMW biomass.
Ulrike Jungemann, regional planner for the county Rotenburg (Wümme), which is the second German project region in greenGain, talked in the second part of this section about the “Innovation- and Cooperation Initiative Bioenergy”. This program aims to strengthen the regional economy by developing the local bioenergy utilisation (mainly biogas and wood), create new work places in local production chains and a long-term perspective for bioenergy use. A number of actors with different backgrounds (administration, private persons) work in five project teams to reach these goals and provide a network in the bioenergy sector. In collaboration with the greenGain project, further contributions to the development of a regional wood energy concept are made and the implementation of the Bioenergy-Initiative as informal planning instrument is supported.
Maintenance work and transport
Ralf Ratajczak, head of the roadside maintenance agency in Bremervörde, started the second section by presenting his work along the state roads in, among others, the county Rotenburg (Wümme). His team plans the maintenance of roadside vegetation, does necessary tendering processes and controls the work implemented by third companies. The agency does only a small part of the work itself, as their personnel and technical means are only sufficient for smaller operations. Mr. Ratajczak highlighted that tendering creates additional workload due to administration processes and that the needed financial means may not always be available.
In the second half of this section, Arne Memmen of the company AGRARService in Sande elaborated how landscape maintenance work is implemented in the field. From cutting the vegetation, to collecting, chipping, transporting and burning the biomass, he pointed out the main factors that have to be considered during the work. With examples from his own experiences and the presentation of the machines used in his company, he underlined his elaborations.
The final theme block was started by Andreas Melle from the environmental service company [k]Nord. He presented the organisation and showed the handling of LCMW material in its composting plant. To do this, the necessary machines are available at [k]Nord and in coordination with the consumer, the best processing steps are defined. Several factors need to be considered for the final use of LCMW material; among them are the final price of the energy carrier, the effort needed for pre-treatment and the legal framework, which defines if and how the utilisation of this type of biomass is financially supported.
As last speaker, Mr. Christian Kühn of the Bayernfonds Best Energy1 GmbH & Co. KG showed the use of LCMW material for energy production in six big power plants in Germany. Wholly based on renewable feedstock, the company produces yearly 235 GWh power as well as 63 GWh heat. Together, the six power plants use in one year around 370.000 air dry tons mainly LCMW wood chips from about 160 different suppliers and with clearly defined quality standards (moisture, ash content, size, etc.).
Questions, discussion and conclusions
With the six presentations, several of the questions collected in the introduction could be answered. The examples of the programs in Friesland and Rotenburg (Wümme) showed that the integration of nature protection factors into LCMW biomass management, as well as the cooperation between nature protection agencies and the companies implementing the LCMW is possible. However, for other regions, this may not be the case and it was concluded that promoting public-private-partnerships is an important factor to support the energetic utilisation of LCMW biomass.
On request, Mr. Ratajczak elaborated how the roadside maintenance agency handles grassy biomass. He explained that today it is mulched unlike in the past, when it was collected by sucking it up with a machine. With this however, also insects and small animals are removed and thus the technique is forbidden on non-highway roads for nature protection purposes. He pointed out that with mulching, humus accumulates over the years and the roadside banks grow higher, which in turn leads to problems with water drainage of the streets.
The presentations also led to additional questions from the audience. On request, Ms. Jungemann clarified the share of agricultural areas used for the production of biogas substrate (mainly corn) in the county Rotenburg (Wümme): 56 % of the arable land/cropland in the county is covered by biomass grown for biogas plants; this corresponds to 23 % of the total agricultural area (includes also e.g. areas for cattle farming). Further, she explained that grass from roadside maintenance could be a potential substrate for the biogas plants of the county. However, most plant managers think this biomass not homogenous enough and prefer to use the crops they grow on their own fields.
Mr. Memmen answered technical questions and affirmed that he uses the same chipper for bigger stem dimensions as well as bushy material. Further, he explained that in about 80 % of the cases the material is directly delivered to the power plant (also smaller plants) without any further pre-treatment.
Finally, Mr. Kühn asked the audience if there is any information available on the potential amount of LCMW biomass in Germany. Mr. Klaus Lenz of the greenGain project partner SYNCOM referred for this to the project BioBoost and its results.
Author: Aline Clalüna, Chamber of Agriculture Lower Saxony