Maximising Iggesund’s land

Iggesund has found a perfect locally grown fuel source for its new Biopower Plant with the planting of 10 hectares of SRC willow energy crop in fields behind the Workington Mill.

The project, which has seen the planting of eight different varieties of SRC willow, has many benefits other than being a fuel source for the boiler. Willow has also been shown to increase biodiversity on land and as well as helping to show land owners how well willow grows despite harsh Cumbrian weather conditions, as well as demonstrating exactly what is involved in growing energy crops, helping to dispel the various misconceptions about it.

Located on land owned by Iggesund behind the Mill, the willow crop has already seen phenomenal growth since it was planted later than normal in June this year – a combination of wet and warm conditions over the summer months being a contributing factor to its success. It will take two to three years to reach maturity at which point the eight varieties of willow should have achieved maximum growth and coverage of the land.

The fields have had to undergo extensive preparation work to eradicate unwanted weeds before a process of ploughing, harrowing and planting was completed Neil Watkins, Iggesund’s Alternative Fuels Manager added: “The cold spring delayed our planting programme but the willow cuttings were kept in controlled conditions in readiness for our use. We eventually intend to use the willow to be part of the fuel source along with forestry residues and sawmill bi-products to feed the Biopower Plant as well as to showcase the SRC Willow Energy crop fields to farmers and landowners as an example of how useful SRC willow cultivation can be as a source of additional income to them.”

Sourcing locally-grown willow as a potential fuel for the Biopower Plant is an on-going task for Neil Watkins and his colleagues which follows on the heels of an extensive campaign over the summer and autumn months when company representatives met with farmers and landowners in a bid to encourage those with unutilised and spare land capacity to diversify and consider SRC willow growing.

Willow breeding programmes were initiated in Sweden in 1987 and the UK in 1996. The primary aims of these programmes are to produce high yielding disease and pest-resistant varieties with a growth habit that facilitates mechanical harvesting.