Irish green energy company and willow development specialist Rural Generation has signed a long-term agreement, worth over €5 million, to source and provide willow chips. Willow is the key ingredient for an innovative new eco log which will see a number of ‘green jobs’ being established in Ireland as well as presenting lucrative business opportunities for niche farmers.
Croi na Tine, which means ‘heart of the fire’, is a new formula 100% natural and sustainable fire log, manufactured by Standard Brands at its factory in Castlebellingham, using locally grown coppiced willow, planted and harvested on Irish soil. As well as being the first product of its kind to use willow chip as its main ingredient this high performance product is the only fire log manufactured in Ireland.
The new contract has resulted in the return of production of the fire log to Ireland with plans in the pipeline to eventually export the product.
As well as providing clean, sustainable, carbon neutral energy, short rotation coppice willow development also provides genuine business opportunities for Irish farmers who wish to diversify. The move to use locally sourced willow chip is giving niche farmers work growing energy crops and for the first time Rural Generation can guarantee to buy local farmers’ willow for a set price.
Tom Brennan (pictured), managing director of Rural Generation, comments: “This contract clearly highlights that there is a definite market for willow and we are looking for farmers to sign up to 10-year contracts to supply the plant. This could provide a valuable business opportunity for tillage farmers who have excess drying capacity for part of the year.”
Rural Generation is planning to plant 200ha of willow this year, increasing to 600ha the following year to meet the estimated demand.