EIP-Agri Focus Group encourages farmers to develop ‘energy farming’

28 june 2018

This is the message which Anna Trettenero launched in the last meeting of EIP Agri Focus Group on renewable energy, in order to help farmers to gain an alternative income by producing crops specifically to generate power. In Italy, using waste and crops to this goal is well established among farmers.

Ana Trettenero is one of the farmers in Italy’s Po valley who uses crops to create electricity through the process of anaerobic digestion. The plant where she works, Alfalfa Energia, creates biogas, which is then burned to generate electricity. In addition, it produces and packages high quality dehydrated alfalfa thanks to surplus heat.

This plant was created when the regional sugar mill where she worked closed because of sugar sector restructuring. Farmers in the region needed to look for diversification and with a favourable national regulatory framework to develop energy from renewable sources, their area had a lot of potential for anaerobic digestion. The facility would be powered by the silage of the main crops produced in the region: corn, sorghum, wheat, barley and rye.

Since 2012 the plant produces 1MW of electricity and 1.2 MW of surplus thermal energy, recovered for additional processing. ‘We signed up when tariffs were at their peak and we currently receive a guaranteed price for 1 MW produced. However, the real market price is now so low that the installation will no longer be viable after the price support disappears’.

For this reasons, Trettenero deals with this challenge encouraging farmers with marginal or unused land to consider ‘energy farming’, crops specifically to generate power and make the most of the process with alternative income streams, while keeping their operations viable. The main objective is adding value to the sector, while working along the principles of circular bioeconomy.

EIP- Agri Focus Group is one of the five EIPs which have been launched by the European Commission in a bid to promote rapid modernisation of the sectors concerned, by stepping up innovation efforts. CARTIF is part of this group, integrated by 20 experts from different European countries, who go on working actively in order to achieve publishing Focus Group report early 2019.

EIPs aim to streamline, simplify and better coordinate existing instruments and initiatives, and complement them with actions where necessary. Two specific funding sources are particularly important for the EIP-AGRI: the EU Research and Innovation framework, Horizon 2020, as well as the EU Rural Development Policy.   

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