Farming seaweed and growing algae from the by-products of whisky manufacturing are among 24 projects to receive UK 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 (€234,000) 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.
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.
It 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.
UK Energy Minister Lord Callanan said: "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."
Today’s funding recipients include Rickerby Estates in Carlisle, which has received over £150,000 to look at scaling-up the harvesting of willow crops.
This will be done using new cutting-edge technology such as automated processing machinery that is controlled by GPS satellite guidance systems.
Green Fuels Research 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 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.
As a result of the £4m of government funding, the Biomass Feedstocks Innovation Programme will enable greater supply of organic materials from domestic sources rather than using imported matter.
It is hoped that the 24 projects will support rural economies across the UK, including providing jobs and encouraging investment.
UK Net Zero business champion Andrew Griffith said: "Innovation is crucial to achieve a low carbon future and it’s fantastic that the UK is home to so much world-leading entrepreneurial talent that will help us meet our climate change commitments.
"Not only will this funding for biomass feedstocks help to achieve net zero by 2050, but it rightly rewards innovative people and businesses that are leading the way to a brighter, cleaner future."
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.