Decentralised CHP enabling rural revitalisation
Tucked away in a remote rural mountainside setting in Japan, a German wood pellet gasifer with combined heat and power (CHP) installation is not only providing renewable energy to a shiitake farm, it is revitalizing an entire Japanese community.
Shiitake (Lentinula edodes) is the world’s second largest mushroom commodity and the fastest growing one according to a recent Markets and Markets report “Mushroom Market – Global Trends & Forecast to 2019”. According to the report the global mushroom market was worth US$29 billion 2013 and is projected to reach over US$50 billion by 2019. The mushroom is traditionally grown by inoculating freshly cut broadleaf logs with shiitake spores and placing the logs in ambient forest conditions in terms of shade, temperature and humidity.
Founded in 2000 the Ueno village shiitake farm uses the press-cake method. A substrate, the recipe of which includes fresh hardwood woodchips and sawdust, blended with water to form a very thick paste that is then pressed into a cake placed in open plastic bag. This is then pasteurised before the surface is inoculated with shiitake mycelium.
Once inoculated the press-cake is taken to a warehouse where light, temperature and humidity are controlled to emulate optimum natural conditions. After about four months the shiitake is picked and the spent press-cake is used for compost.
Biomass enabled expansion
Since 2000 production has been expanded to its current annual output of 500 tonnes fresh product. Priding itself on its “top surface grown” thick cap shiitake and its pristine tranquil mountain forest setting, Ueno village nonetheless struggles with population decline. Like many other rural communities in Japan, its younger citizens leave for the allure of employment in metropolitan Japan leaving an ageing population behind. Indeed Ueno has a seemingly modest ambition, to increase its population to 1 500 by 2020 and has deployed generous tax rebates and other family friendly fringe benefits to make it attractive.
In 2013 a development centre together with the municipality was set up at the shiitake farm. The aim was to further develop the farm and ancillary businesses with new shiitake based products in a bid to stimulate growth and additional employment opportunities.
A key constraint identified as hampering future growth thus employment opportunities was energy cost and footprint. Electricity and heating oil was being used while at the same time a small local wood pellet facility utilising unused wood just 2 km up the road, literally, was only running at 50 percent capacity.
Wood pellet gasification
In 2013 the development committee concluded that a pellet-fired combined heat and power (CHP) plant of around 300 kWth output would be sufficient for the shiitake farm while providing an 800 tonne per annum off-take for the pellet plant.
– The task was to find an energy solution that utilised the locally produced wood pellets. Both Ueno Village and Sanyo Trading came across Burkhardt at the same time and group of both travelled to visit several installations in Germany. We were very impressed, said Hideki Nakagawa, Executive Officer, Machinery and Environmental Business Unit, Sanyo Trading Co. Ltd.
Certainly it would seem so as things moved very quickly. Tokyo-based Sanyo Trading Co. Ltd has been representing CPM for almost 60 years, and thus has been very involved in the Japanese animal feed and wood pellet industry via its Machinery and Environmental Business Unit. It represents other well-known technology providers such as Stela Laxhuber and in February 2014, Sanyo signed a sole agency deal with Burkhardt GmbH for its wood pellet gasifier and combined heat and power (CHP) package.
In spring 2015 it commissioned the Ueno plant, the first Burkhardt wood pellet combined heat and power plant installation in Japan. This plant has been running for 15 months now and was the first Burkhardt gasifier outside Europe and the first wood pellet gasifier with CHP in Japan.
Further reading including full details of the plant setup can be found here.