Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Kent Wildlife Trust - free courses

Please find below details of some free courses for landowners which are being organised by the Kent Wildlife Trust over the next few months.

Management of Small Woodlands
16th May – Sandling, Maidstone and Bredhurst Woods – 10am to 3.30pm

Bredhurst Woods is one of the largest blocks of ancient woodland in the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). Similarly to Boxley, it has suffered considerable neglect and misuse in the past, but has been much improved in recent years. 
More details can be found on the Mid Kent Downs Countryside Project and the Bredhurst Woodland Action Group (BWAG) websites. 
BWAG are also now offering firewood for sale for people within 6 miles of the woods - see the logs section on their website.
As a guide to the incredible work that has already been done within these woods please take a look at the gallery section on the BWAG website...a picture paints a thousand words!
Management of Chalk Grassland
12th June – Kemsing, near Sevenoaks and Kemsing Nature Reserve – 10am to 3.30pm

Management of Small Pastures
27th July – Tyland Barn, near Maidstone and a local farm. 10am to 3.30pm

For further information about these courses and to book, please email tania.avard@kentwildlife.org.uk or camilla.blackburn@kentwildlife.org.uk.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Lincolnshire farming estate could use its crops to fuel £200k biomass heater

William Cracroft-Eley of Hackthorn Hall
A Lincolnshire farming estate could use crops grown on its land to fuel its own £200,000 biomass heating system.

The owner of Hackthorn Hall, north of Lincoln, hopes to build multiple mini-district heating systems in the grounds.

An application for the technology is currently being considered by West Lindsey District Council.

The installation is being handled by Cedar Farm Developments.

This is an interesting case study for the Pathfinder project which has supported several estates in Kent that appear to be a similar scale to Hackthorn Hall.

What is also of interest is the use of multiple biomass systems, three in total, that will serve seven different buildings on the estate.  The fuel will be pelletised miscanthus, a well-established biomass fuel crop on the estate that extends to around 300 acres.

Tree planting good for cereal yields

Picture courtesy of Mike Townsend

A new report commissioned by the Woodland Trust and written by Harper Adams University highlights the value of tree shelter belts to farmers in combating the effects of drought.

The report, Managing the drought - A review of the evidence of the benefits of native trees species for shelter on the water regime of pasture and arable crops, pulls together studies from UK and other temperate agriculture systems to show how trees planted as shelter belts help to reduce wind speeds, meaning water loss through evapotranspiration is slowed. This allows the sheltered crop to retain more water and use it efficiently.
In the UK such shelter belts are relatively uncommon, but studies have shown cereal yields of sheltered crops can be higher than that for unsheltered crops, particularly in years when the weather is hot and dry.

Mike Townsend, Woodland Trust Conservation Advisor said, "This report makes it clear that tree shelter belts could be of real value in the development of sustainable agriculture, especially as we face a changing climate and growing demand for food.
"Naturally, trees will compete for water and nutrients, reducing crop yields directly adjacent to the shelter belt. However, these reductions typically only occur up to a distance of one to two tree heights away. Any loss after that point is significantly outweighed by the increase in yield achieved by more efficient water use.

"More research is needed, but this is promising start and shows that good farmers should indeed consider planting more trees." 
Read Mike Townsend's blog for more detail on the report.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Royal Forestry Society - Hucking Estate free event

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Bersco Engineering Open Day

Bersco Engineering, based on the Lympne Industrial Estate near Hythe, is an engineering company specialising in diesel and hydraulic servicing for a range of vehicles, including agricultural and forestry equipment.

The latest addition to their portfolio of services is a new partnership with Fuelwood (Warwick) Ltd which acts as a national importer/distributor of specialised woodfuel processing equipment.

As a result of this new relationship there is now a local supplier of high quality equipment, including Heizohack (chippers), Japa and Sami (log processors), Woodline (log splitters), LucasMill (portable saw mills), MOWI (trailers and cranes) and Fuelwoods own range of British manufactured kindling and log machines (Transaw, Splitta and Kindlet).

I attended Bersco's recent open day and met with owner Robert who was pleased with the good turn out.  There was a good mix of existing customers as well as some seasoned woodsmen who paid close attention to the demonstrations led by Jeremy from Fuelwood Ltd.  The hog roast also helped proceedings, as did the umpteen cups of tea provided by Leanne's team!

Fuelwood's Jeremy discussing kindling during a tea break
The Sami log processor was certainly an impressive piece of kit.  The model being demonstrated, the S185-TEC440, is not cheap at almost £30,000, but it made short work of some fairly large pieces of timber.  What was most impressive was the automatic sensors that scan the timer dimensions as it enters the machine and alters the cutting length and height of the splitter blade automatically.  This means that timer with a variety of dimensions can be fed into the machine without the operator having to alter the set-up each time.  The hydraulic log lift was another feature that was new to me.

The Kindlet machine was more familiar to me but I was impressed again at the ease with which it produces a consistent product.  According to Jeremy the PTO version can process up to 100 bags an hour...not bad considering the average price of a bag of kindling these days!

The SAMI log processor (PTO or 3-phase)

Also good for leaning on
The NET result...ahem

The Kindlet - Made in Britain

The SAMI log conveyor

Free workshop: Discovering Ancient Woodland

Monday, 2 April 2012

RHI: consultation on interim cost control

DECC has launched a consultation on possible approaches to cost control for the RHI.

The document focuses on the amount of notice that would be provided and is largely informed by the difficulties that were caused by short-notice changes to the Feed in Tariff.  The proposals range from one month, one week and no notice.
The document also clarifies the structure of the RHI budget.  It is interesting to note that each year has a fixed budget and any underspend will not be carried over to the next year. 
As of 18th March 2012 298 applications hd been received, of which only 11 have been accredited.  Based on the current level DECC expects that spend in 2011/12 will be approximately £2m, which is somewhat short of the £56m allocated to 2011/12 (although this includes £25m for RHPP Phase 2).
Based on this uptake DECC suggests that the proposed interim cost control measure would not be needed and suspension would not occur.
However, based on our recent interaction with installers there is likely to be a step-change in the number of new applications over the next quarter as both new systems and post July-2009 projects are submitted.
Annual RHI budget (Source: DECC)
Predicted budget allocations for 2012/13 are:
  • £15m - from installations already accredited
  • £40m - new installations coming on stream

The main points from the consultation are as follows:
  • The Renewable Heat Incentive continues to be a top priority for Government as a means to reduce our carbon emissions and because it is central to delivering our strategic framework for heat. It is therefore essential that the RHI policy is sustainable and that we have the ability to ensure that year to year spending does not exceed available funding.
  • This consultation sets out a proposed interim cost control measure that would suspend the RHI until the next financial year should estimated spending reach a level where the budget could be breached.
  • Only new applications would be affected. Accredited installations already receiving the RHI tariff from Ofgem would continue to receive that tariff. Applications submitted to Ofgem prior to the suspension would be processed as normal.
  • Current application levels are low relative to the available budget and if these levels were to continue the proposed interim cost control measure is unlikely to be needed. However, there is a high degree of uncertainty about how the market will respond and we need to be prepared for unexpected changes in uptake. Having this interim approach set out in advance will ensure that Government is able to respond quickly if required and that stakeholders will be sighted on future action.
  • The proposed circumstances under which suspension would occur will be specified in the RHI regulations and will include a predetermined trigger that would set off suspension and a fixed notice period before the suspension begins.
  • We intend to frequently publish the data being used to monitor progress towards the trigger. This will allow the market to make informed decisions about the likelihood of suspension.
  • We are proposing this policy as an interim measure. Over summer we plan to consult on a longer-term flexible degression-based mechanism which would automatically reduce tariffs should spending against the overall budget or deployment of certain technologies exceed forecasts.