Biomass counters rural population shift in Mediterranean countries

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Bioenergy as a strategy for job creation and population stability

Southern European Mediterranean countries show great potential for biomass use for energy and as a source of rural development, new jobs and population stability. The partners that make up the BIOPATH sub-project (a component of the Bio-en-area initiative, INTERREG IVC): Cesefor Foundation (Spain), Bruno Kessler Foundation (Italy) and the Institute of Solid Fuel Technology and Applications (Greece), have not only been working on updating a guarantees system for forest-sourced bio-fuels, but are also supporting local bioenergy initiatives that generate multiple workplaces and make use of resources in the production area. To illustrate this strategy the institutions are sharing and developing three projects that are being worked on in the their respective regions.

The Cesefor Foundation is presenting the case of a municipality located deep in a forest area, where the aim is to use resources fully in a local logistics centre that receives logs exploited sustainably by local companies and sends them on to become technical products for wooden structures with high added value, and also sends the chippings to produce biofuels with certificates that guarantee Sustainable Forest Management. The chippings generated are distributed around the district in addition to supplying a small associated pellets plant (3,000 t/year) and an attached, small-scale cogeneration plant (130 kWe), which generates electricity for the plant to use and heat for drying the raw material. This initiative will create 7 permanent jobs directly and an industry that is closely tied to local resources.

The Bruno Kessler Foundation is implementing a mixed pellet manufacturing system in small municipalities, using the wood from local woodlands and residues generated by other activities as a basis, in such a way that materials are recycled and a certified product is produced on a local scale with minimum emissions and maximum calorific yield. The fuel is intended for local use in micro-cogeneration plants to supply heat and electricity to municipal facilities, thus closing the economic cycle for the activity without leaving the district while at the same time creating 3 stable jobs and taking the first steps towards energy independence.

The ISFTA is leading an initiative in one municipality to produce biogas in a 1MW plant using the waste from 4,300 animals at the numerous farms clustered nearby. Besides generating electrical power for its own use and for sale to national grids, it is envisaged there will be a granulating industry for 20,000 t/year of wood pellets associated with the biogas plant. The ISFTA estimates 24 jobs linked to the initiative will be created, and investment costs will be recouped in 4 years through the sale of power and pellets.

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