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IrBEA launches guide for delivery of sustainable forest fuel and fibre

IrBEA launches guide for delivery of sustainable forest fuel and fibre
Forwarding of tops and harvesting residues from the harvest site after allowing sufficient time for green foliage and needles to fall off and remain in the litter pool (photo courtesy Worrell Harvesting).

The Irish Bioenergy Association (IrBEA) has published a guide to Specified Biomass Harvesting (SBH) as part of sustainable forest management (SFM). The document has been welcomed by the Department of Agriculture Food and Marine, as it provides important information and guidance on energy assortment harvesting considering sustainable forest management.

Typically, forests are mostly grown for roundwood production. Specified Biomass Harvesting (SBH) refers to the planned and specified harvesting of tops and branches that are removed during normal felling operations in working forests for use in energy or other uses according to market demand.

Irish foresters and forest owners, and those involved in forest certification now have the guidance in hand to enable sustainable harvest of an additional forest energy assortment through SBH. This publication brings together previous research and summarises current best practices. Following the guidance will provide for better biomass and better future forest assurance to growers, said Dr Eugene Hendrick, Chairman of the Wood Fuel Quality Assurance (WFQA) and co-author.

The technical guide “Specified Biomass Harvesting: Good practice guidance for energy assortment harvesting at clearfell” is aimed at foresters, forest owners, and environmentalists and outlines how SBH should be practiced cost-effectively and sustainably.

As a biomass fuel, SBH displaces fossil fuels with significant greenhouse gas savings. This is achieved through fossil displacement and avoidance of emissions from decaying residues on site. Where SBH is harvested reforestation costs can be lowered and regeneration is more uniform, explained Noel Gavigan, IrBEA Technical Executive and co-author of the report.

SBH also facilitates forest regeneration, more efficient subsequent crop management, and more uniform and higher-quality crops in future cycles.

This SBH document is a win-win for forest owners by improving returns, the environment by reducing replanting ground disturbance and windrowing requirements, and the State in facilitating the achievement of national bioenergy and climate change targets, said Donal Whelan, Technical Director of the Irish Timber Growers Association (ITGA).

SBH has the potential to provide a significant amount of renewable fuel while facilitating regeneration and closing the forest cycle.

I welcome the launch of this report which demonstrates the sustainability of our certified harvesting systems which are supported by our Log-Watch traceability system and will open the opportunity to sustainably harvest SBH from certified forests, said Kenneth Worrell, Worrell Harvesting.

Ireland has grown a significant forest resource over the past century since independence, with much of this forest resource now reaching the harvest stage.

Maximizing the value of this harvest, while protecting the forest environment and optimizing future crops are challenges that are being addressed through sustainable forest management (SFM).

We call on Minister Ryan and his Government to urgently recognize the significant role that solid biomass can play in decarbonizing our energy uses. A basic first step is to recognize the potential of solid biomass in key Government policy documents and as a readily available decarbonization option for achieving renewable energy targets. We need to also see an enhanced focus and increased promotion by the Government, of the biomass support available through the Support Scheme for Renewable Heat (SSRH), concluded Seán Finan, CEO of IrBEA.

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