From an environmental point of view, the European wine sector faces challenges. The field burning of agricultural residues produces methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O), both greenhouse gases. EU growers currently produce more than 25 million tonnes of woody remains from pruning every year. Most of this waste is left to decompose or burnt in situ. Spain has the capacity to generate over 500 MW from burning the residues of its agricultural industries. In recent years the development of energy crops and initiatives for the collection, extraction and processing of biomass has increased. The biomass potentially recoverable from agriculture residues represents an estimated 12 million tonnes.
VINEYARDS4HEAT aimed to demonstrate an integral governance strategy to mitigate climate change called Vineyards Virtuous Circle (VVC). Its objectives included:
The VINEYARDS4HEAT project demonstrated how farmers could use agricultural biomass from vine pruning as a local source of renewable energy. Already the project results are yielding environmental, economic and social benefits for the region, and could benefit the wine-making sector at large. They have notably cut local energy bills, reduced greenhouse gas emissions and led to the creation of green jobs. VINEYARDS4HEAT has laid down the technical and managerial groundwork to demonstrate the benefits of its so-called Vineyards Virtuous Circle (VVC) into action. The project has reached out to the broader public through dissemination activities, and has set out a long-term strategy to extend the VCC model across vineyards in other regions.
Farmers working alongside local government and the municipal water utility in Vilafranca del Penedès distributed over 300 tonnes of biomass from the pruning wastes of vineyards to energy consumers in the Penedès Region.
Rather than going to waste, this biomass has been providing clean, affordable heat to the Vilarnau wine cellar and the district heating system of La Girada.
Biomass boilers installed during the project now supply heating with a combined capacity of around 600 kW. The boilers generate over 400 000 kWh of thermal energy each year.
Far from costing more money, biomass has reduced energy bills in the region. VINEYARDS4HEAT demonstrated that it is possible to cut costs by shortening the distance over which renewable energy is harnessed and consumed (in this case, to effectively 0 km).
Vilafranca del Penedès is located in one of the most important wine-making regions in Catalonia, Spain. Agricultural waste from local vines is readily-available and more economical than conventional fuels.
The project has calculated that the cost of collecting, treating and storing this biomass comes in as little as €50-103/tonne, and results in overall energy costs of €42-45/MWh. Even taking into account annual fluctuations in biomass production costs, the fuel can generally compete under current market conditions.
This local, decentralised approach to generating energy has bypassed conventional supply lines, reducing the region’s dependence on fossil fuel imports and large energy corporations.
The production of biomass energy has saved carbon emissions as well as money. By displacing traditional fossil fuels, VVC has reduced the greenhouse gas emissions of local energy consumers and helped mitigate climate change. VINEYARDS4HEAT has saved some 240 tonnes of CO2 from being emitted, and field-tested a solution for other vineyards to cut their carbon footprint in the future.
The project also gave rise to a local green economy that now nurtures the creation of jobs related to the collection and treatment of biomass.
In conducting its work, VINEYARDS4HEAT created four new jobs in the Penedès Region and mobilised the investment of over €500 000 in green infrastructure and facilities. These actions have promoted competitiveness and innovation, adding value to the local economy by developing agricultural machinery to harvest vine shoots, and installing renewable energy.
In March 2016, the Environmental Forum Foundation, with support from the Spanish Ministry of the Environment, recognised the work of the VINEYARDS4HEAT by granting the municipality of Vilafranca del Penedès the Award for Sustainable Cities in the category of Waste Management.
Further information on the project can be found in the project's layman report and After-LIFE Communication Plan (see "Read more" section).