Seaweed-harvesting and by-product of whisky manufacturing among projects to receive biomass funding

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Farming seaweed and growing algae from the by-products of whisky manufacturing are among 24 projects awarded £4 million government funding to boost biomass production.

The projects, from start-ups and family-run businesses to research institutes and universities, will receive funding of up to £200,000 from the government’s Biomass Feedstocks Innovation Programme to produce low-carbon energy using organic materials.

The projects will boost biomass productivity in the UK, through breeding, planting, cultivating and harvesting of organic energy materials.

Energy Minister Lord Callanan commented on the announcement: “Working to develop new and greener types of fuel like biomass is an important part of building a the diverse and green energy mix that we will need to achieve our climate change targets.

“We are backing UK innovators to ensure we have a homegrown supply of biomass materials, which is part of our wider plans to continue driving down carbon emissions as we build back greener.”

Biomass refers to sustainably derived plant material that could be used as fuel to produce energy or to create products such as chemicals and bio-plastics.

According to the government, biomass is ‘a small but important’ part of the renewable energy mix that the UK requires to meet its commitment to eradicate its contribution to climate change by 2050 and is also backed by the UK’s independent Committee on Climate Change.

Biomass materials include non-food energy crops such as grasses and hemp, material from forestry operations and marine-based materials such as algae and seaweed.

The funding recipients include:

  • Rickerby Estates Ltd in Carlisle has received over £150,000, to look at scaling-up the harvesting of willow crops using new technology, such as automated processing machinery, that is controlled by GPS satellite guidance systems.
  • Green Fuels Research Limited in Gloucestershire has received over £190,000 for a project that will allow microscopic algae to be produced for biomass using wastewater from breweries and dairy industries.
  • SeaGrown Limited in Scarborough will use over £180,000 funding to develop new techniques to farm and harvest seaweed off the North Yorkshire coast, taking advantage of seaweed’s qualities as a source of biomass and its ability to remove carbon from the atmosphere.
  • Impact Laboratories Limited in Stirlingshire, Scotland, received over £170,000 to look at innovation in the commercial cultivation of algae utilising heat provided by geothermally-warmed water from abandoned mine sites.
  • Aberystwyth University, Wales, has received over £160,000 for their ‘Miscanspeed’ project, which is looking at ways to improve the breeding of high-yielding, resilient Miscanthus or elephant grass – grass varieties that are well-suited for biomass use – in the UK.

The Biomass Feedstocks Innovation Programme is funded through the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s £1 billion Net Zero Innovation Portfolio.

The UK government intends to publish a new biomass strategy in 2022 which will review the amount of sustainable biomass available to the UK and how this could be best utilised across the economy to help achieve the government’s net zero and wider environmental commitments.

The full list of successful projects is available on the UK Government website.