Biomass has emerged as a popular renewable energy source in Ireland, owing to its potential to reduce carbon emissions, generate electricity, and create employment opportunities. With multiple biomass plants operational throughout the country, it has become a crucial component of the Irish energy mix. The plants use various feedstocks, including wood from the timber industry, to generate electricity in power stations or through combined heat and power stations.

For instance, the West Offaly Power Station is a biomass plant that generates electricity by burning wood chips from the local forestry industry. In this article, we will provide an in-depth overview of biomass plants in Ireland, including their role in renewable energy production and their environmental impact.

What is Biomass?

Biomass refers to organic matter that one can transform into energy. It comprises a range of materials, such as wood, food waste, crops, and other organic substances. You can use biomass to produce transportation fuels, heat, and electricity. In Ireland, the wood industry is one of the leading sources of biomass used for energy production, primarily in the form of wood pellets. However, other forms of biomass, such as straw and energy crops, are also commonly utilized for generating electricity or other forms of energy.

Biomass Plants in Ireland

An Industrial Factory Emitting Smoke

According to the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI), there are currently 17 biomass plants in operation across the country, with a combined capacity of 267 MW. Of these, 11 are dedicated biomass plants, while the remaining six are co-fired power plants that burn a mixture of biomass and fossil fuels.

The Edenderry Power Plant, located in County Offaly, is one of the most extensive biomass plants in Ireland, with a capacity of 120 MW. It can generate enough electricity to power approximately 150,000 households. The Edenderry Power Station primarily uses biomass pellets produced from sawdust and wood chips, alongside some peat, to generate electricity.

Another primary biomass plant in Ireland is the Bord na Móna biomass plant in County Laois. This plant has a capacity of 44 MW and primarily burns biomass pellets made from agricultural waste, such as straw and miscanthus, to generate electricity.

Renewable Energy Targets in Ireland

Ireland’s government has established an ambitious goal of producing 70% of the country’s electricity from renewable sources by 2030 to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. Achieving these targets will necessitate a significant increase in renewable energy production, and biomass plays a critical role in meeting these goals, especially in the heat and electricity sectors.

As per the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI), biomass comprised approximately 3.6% of Ireland’s total primary energy consumption in 2019, a substantial rise from a few years earlier. Burning peat, however, continues to account for a considerable portion of Ireland’s primary energy consumption.

Nevertheless, the Irish government is taking significant strides to decrease reliance on peat and other fossil fuels by incentivizing the transition to sustainable energy sources such as biomass. In 2015, biomass accounted for just 1.8% of the country’s primary energy consumption, highlighting the substantial increase in its adoption over the past few years.

Challenges of Biomass Energy

While biomass energy has many benefits, several challenges are associated with its production and use. These challenges include:

Land Use Competition

Biomass energy production can compete with other land uses, such as food production or conservation. As a result, it can create conflicts between different stakeholders and require careful management.

Supply Chain Issues

Biomass energy requires a reliable and sustainable supply chain of feedstocks, which can be challenging to develop and maintain. In addition, it can include issues such as transportation, storage, and quality control.

Environmental Impacts

While biomass energy can potentially reduce greenhouse gas emissions, it can also have negative environmental impacts, such as air pollution and land degradation. Therefore, careful management is needed to minimize these impacts.


biomass energy illustration

Biomass energy can be more expensive than fossil fuels, particularly in the short term. As a result, it can make it difficult for biomass to compete in markets with heavy fossil fuel subsidization.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the Main Components of a Biomass Boiler

Biomass boilers have several main components. First, the fuel storage system stores the biomass fuel, which goes to the combustion chamber. In the combustion chamber, the biomass fuel is burned, producing heat. The heat then goes to a heat exchanger, which heats water or other fluids. Heated fluids help in space heating, hot water production, or electricity generation.

What is a Sustainable Biomass Fuel?

Sustainable biomass fuel is a fuel that comes from renewable and sustainable sources. Biomass fuel can be sustainable if we produce it in a way that does not deplete natural resources or harm the environment. Sustainable biomass fuels include energy crops, agricultural and food processing by-products, and forestry residues. Biomass fuels that are not sustainable include those that come from non-renewable sources, such as fossil fuels. Also, those you produce using unsustainable practices, such as clear-cutting forests or monoculture farming, are unsustainable.

How Do I Switch to Biomass?

Making the Switch to Biomass in Ireland is Easy with Woodco. Woodco is a leading provider of biomass boilers in Ireland, offering a range of high-quality, efficient, and reliable biomass boilers suitable for various applications. With over 50 years of experience in the industry, Woodco has the knowledge and expertise to help you quickly switch to renewable energy.

Final Thoughts

Biomass energy has the potential to play an important role in Ireland’s transition to a more sustainable energy mix. With several biomass plants in operation nationwide and a range of policies and initiatives aimed at promoting biomass energy, Ireland is in a good place to capitalize on the benefits of this renewable energy source.

However, careful management and planning will be needed to ensure that biomass production and use are sustainable and do not have negative environmental or social impacts. By working together, stakeholders in the biomass sector can help Ireland achieve its renewable energy targets and create a more sustainable future.

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