Bioenergy can play an important role in addressing climate change as well as improving the security of energy supply in Europe. Small-scale heat and power generation from biomass is in principle able to deliver significant energy and emissions savings through the substitution of substantial quantities of fossil fuels. In particular, the use of biomass waste is expected to contribute to the integrated management of existing farming activities. Integrated management of cultivated species could have an enormous impact on the environment with regards to water and soil quality, biodiversity and landscape preservation. As well as energy benefits, replacing fossil fuels helps minimise the environmental impact of fossil fuel consumption, particularly in decentralised areas where the energy and environmental cost of fossil fuel use is high.
The ‘SMARt-CHP’ project aimed to demonstrate an innovative, small-scale, mobile power production unit, which uses the agricultural residues generated in rural areas where large amounts of biomass wastes are available. This versatile unit would operate close to the place of feedstock origin, thus minimising transportation and logistic costs. The unit consists of a gasification reactor combined with an internal combustion engine that has been adjusted to work on produced gas for electrical power and heat. It would have a high energy and environmental performance.
The project also aimed to promote the concept of bioenergy use via a decentralised electrical energy production unit – an integrated system with great potential for the sustainable development of rural regions.
Specific objectives included:
The ‘SMARt-CHP’ project demonstrated a combined heat and power mobile unit which relies on the exploitation of agricultural residues. The technology combined fluidised-bed gasification of biomass residues and an internal combustion engine to produce electricity and heat. The relatively small and mobile unit avoids transport costs and the uncertainty of weather conditions in the exploitation of agricultural residues. Instead, decentralised production of energy near the source of the agricultural residues contributes to local energy supplies and avoids the logistics of collecting and transporting wastes to another location. Given that agricultural residues can no longer be burned owing to the emission of greenhouse gases, their collection their collection and disposal has become a problem which would be addressed by the use of this technology.
The SMARt-CHP unit consists of a gasification reactor combined with an internal combustion engine and adjusted to work on producer gas for electrical power and heat. The unit was built in Thessaloniki and transported to the premises of the two associated beneficiaries. The feedstock was made up of grape, peach and olive kernels that had been collected from the region of Western Macedonia.
During the demonstrations, several technical issues were faced and resolved, and the operation of the unit was consistently improved at each demonstration. A detailed sustainability analysis was carried assess the environmental, economic and social benefits of the new technology.
Dissemination was effectively aimed at the target groups: farmers, agricultural cooperatives, and the biomass/biofuel sector and energy companies. Lessons learnt during the project were published in a good practice guide, which could serve to further promote the technology following the end of the project. The good practices will be included into the planned ‘eco school’ on renewable energy that will be developed by the Kilkis education department.
Decentralised electricity production is likely to play a major role in the future. Facilities using local renewable sources and designed to supply local communities and decentralised energy users are in the forefront of EU energy and environmental policies. Small-scale biomass installations that produce electrical and thermal power are among the most promising technologies for decentralised energy generation. SMARt-CHP is an integrated flexible technology and has the potential to penetrate the electricity production market, thus promoting regional development and enhancing agricultural sector reinforcement.
The After-LIFE plan (included in the project's final technical report) aims to establish an energy cooperative body in Karditsa that will organise the collection of biomass and move towards electricity production using the SMARt-CHP technology. Moreover, the district heating company of Ptolemaida is developing a bioenergy plan for the use of biomass and the municipality of Amyntaion is aiming to secure funding for biomass utilisation units of less than 1 MW.
Further information on the project can be found in the project's layman report (see "Read more" section).