East Cork Grass Could Power Thousands Of Homes

By Seamus Whelehan

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Grass cutting from roadside verges across Cork County could soon be used to generate electricity and gas for thousands of home owners.
Cork County Council’s environmental special purposes committee are to consider using special machines to cut and collect cuttings for anaerobic digestion.
The move comes following the tabling of a motion be Cllrs Eoughan Jeffers at the March sitting of full council.
The Sinn Fein Cllr said a similar scheme in Lincolnshire has the potential to provide electricity for 4,500 homes or gas for 1,100 homes.
The study carried out on 8,750 km of road side verge by Lincolnshire wildlife trust and Leeds University is significantly less than green areas across Cork County, Cork County Council has a road network of 12,500km.
Cllr Jeffers who brought the motion to full council on Monday 12 March said we need to change the way we view our grass verges and green areas.
“Our green areas can contribute significantly to urban biodiversity and the eco system. We need to change our outlook on roadside verges. The potential they have and not just look at them as waste” the Sinn Fein Cllr told the March sitting of full council.
He also called for council owned land that may not have the ability to develop houses, to be used for urban farming, which could help educate young children.
It comes after Cllr Jeffers and Des O’Grady have been to see pilot schemes for urban farming in the Basque country and Ballymun.
Cllr O’Grady who baked his colleague’s motion said a number of countries across Europe have developed machinery to collect the cuttings for energy harvesting.
Independent Cllr Marcia Dalton an environmental engineer said “Road side verges have a huge potential”
She said the cost to the local authority would be minimal to fund a PHD student to investigate the prospect.
“We are not capitalising on grass verges, both in terms of biodiversity and in terms of energy production and in terms of drainage and relieving flooding” she said.
Kevin Murphy chair of the authority’s environmental special purposes committee said it was something his committee were open to exploring.
Council CEO Tim Lucey said he would look at developing Urban farms alongside allotments currently being provided by the authority.
He said “there is a need to look at what models are out there and what is capable of being done and developing a plan from there.”
Cobh Tidy Towns Chairwoman Ruth Ring said while the scheme could throw a life line to grass lands and change the way grass verges are managed.
She said she was “hugely concerned” that if the scheme took off on a commercial scale it would have a negative impact on biodiversity.
The Cobh Tidy Towns Chairwoman added she “would be more interested in if the council would take away householders grass, and leave road side verges alone to ensure wildlife are able to access all the wild plants that are there naturally.”

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