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Department of Agriculture and Rural Development : 10 September 2012 - O’Neill announces fresh investment in a range of On-farm Renewable Energy Technologies

09/10/2012 | 11:20am EST

Agriculture Minister Michelle O'Neill today re-affirmed her commitment to the support of renewable energy in the agricultural sector by announcing the re-opening of the EU co-financed Biomass Processing Challenge Fund.
Monday, 10 September 2012

The Biomass Processing Challenge Fund (BPCF) aims to encourage agricultural and forestry businesses to install biomass fuelled technologies primarily to aid agricultural activities at farm level. The Fund can provide capital grant assistance of up to 40% with a ceiling of approximately £320,000 per project.

The Minister recently visited the Blakiston-Houston farm in Carrowreagh, County Down to view the Anaerobic Digester which was installed at the premises with support from the BPCF. This dairy, beef and arable farm utilises cattle slurry with a percentage of grass silage to produce heat and electricity to be used on-farm in direct support of agricultural activities.

Following her visit, the Minister said: "It is good to see a successful renewable energy project in operation and I am pleased that my department was able to offer assistance to it and other renewable installations.

I support the development of on-farm renewable energy technologies and I recognise that they can be hugely beneficial to local farmers by improving their resource efficiency and providing a secure source of renewable energy which will in turn enhance farm profitability."

The Minister added: "I am encouraged at the significant impact tranche one of the BPCF has had in encouraging uptake of on-farm renewable technologies. However with the cost of capital construction remaining high and with limited availability of private finance, I believe that the time is right to re-open the Biomass Processing Challenge Fund for applications. I remain mindful of the challenges faced by potential applicants in procuring private finance and confirming the necessary legal permissions. To allow farmers to address these issues, I will open the Fund for an extended application period of 12 weeks. I hope to see farmers coming forward with applications incorporating a range of renewable technologies and look forward to my department supporting projects with viable economic and technical business cases which evidence how renewable energy technologies can benefit the farming enterprise."

The Minister highlighted that she wanted to see the agricultural sector make a meaningful contribution to the government target of producing 40% of electricity and 10% of heat from renewable sources by 2020. She added: "I firmly believe that assistance with capital installation is vital to ensure that these targets are met and I hope that all farmers will give serious consideration to the adoption of renewable technologies on-farm. I am confident that such technologies can benefit every farmer in the north of Ireland, regardless of the size of their holding."

Applications to the fund are welcome from individual farmers and groups of farmers. The Biomass Processing Challenge Fund is part of the Greenhouse Gas strategy and action plan (Efficient Farming cuts Greenhouse Gases). Fund details including application forms are available for download here.

All BPCF documents can be made available, on request, in alternative formats and other languages.

The BPCF will be open to applications for 12 weeks from Monday 10 September 2012. No applications will be accepted after 4pm on Friday 30 November 2012.

The BPCF is managed under the European Sustainable Competitiveness Programme for NI 2007 - 2013 and is part financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) under Priority 3 - Improving the Accessibility and Enhancing the Environment.

Notes to Editors:
  1. For media enquiries please contact DARD Press Office 028 9052 4619 or email: pressoffice.group@dardni.gov.uk Out of hours contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 07699 715 440 and your call will be returned.
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© Publicnow 2012
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