Biogas of Alsace wine

A biogas plant for the vineyards of Alsace?

With its 30 000 40 000 tons of marc and wine effluent, the vineyard could consider the construction of a biogas power plant. But has viticulture taken the measure of energy issues and challenges?

In June 2004, one could learn in Viti-Alsace and the East agricultural and viticultural that the oil would be expensive. We then take the data of Jean Laherrère, a geophysicist, whom we had invited with the help of Crédit Mutuel to the Chamber of Agriculture of Bas-Rhin. At the time, the price of a barrel had not yet reached 50 dollars. Since then, things have changed, the economic situation of the vineyards of the world has become tense, there is even talk of grubbing up in Australia, a country that was aiming to be the first world producer in 2015. In Alsace, the vineyard had to make sacrifices on the yields and the selling prices of bottles and wine in bulk. The profit margin has been considerably deflated, especially since, at the same time, expenses are rising. Today we must think about reducing production costs.

It was during the 2000s, when viticulture could still afford to invest, that the question of energy costs should have been taken into account. It appears that today this issue is still not a political priority in the vineyard. Some pioneering winemakers were concerned, however. Some run on vegetable oil - Jean-Marie and Jean-Paul Zusslin in Orchwihr -, produce their electricity by photovoltaic panels and biogas - André Durrmann in Andlau -, insulate their cellars against the cold and especially against the heat with cellulose wadding - Benoît Frey in Bleinschwiller-, and develop the practices of simplified cultivation techniques supposed to consume less fuel oil - Hubert Hausherr in Eguisheim and Patrick Meyer in Nothalten. Some finally use the branches to make it a combustible material - Xavier-Léon Muller in Marlenheim, Pierre Beinert in Bourgheim, Vincent Spannagel in Katzenthal - to name a few. It remains to develop the marcs in energy at a time when the European Union is considering abolishing aid for distillation. The grape marc could also constitute a formidable energy resource in electric cogeneration for the vineyard.

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Oil is expensive, but electricity will also be expensive. And all the more so as the electricity needs of winegrowers will increase to air-condition the cellars and thermoregulate fermentations, which is a prerequisite for the aromatic quality of wines. And this is not the heat of this summer will deny global warming. At the time of the harvest, it will still be able to take action.

France has focused on the "almost all nuclear" deferring to future generations the cost of reprocessing and dismantling of obsolete reactors and especially distorting the profitability figures of the production of electricity. While an out of service nuclear power plant remains a burden for the company, a biogas plant or a wind turbine is no longer. An article recently published in the newspaper "The World" addressed this issue. In Britain, where nuclear power represents only 15 30%, the cost of dismantling and reprocessing is estimated at more than 100 billion euros, the newspaper said.

In France, where nuclear power represents more than 70% of the production, how can we explain that we only evoke a few tens of billions of euros of cost concerning the dismantling of the old reactors and the reprocessing of this waste , money that should otherwise have been provisioned for decades, what denounces the Cour des Comptes about the financial frashes of the main French electricity operator in South America.
The question is not so much nuclear as that of the conditions of its financial transparency in particular.

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And there are many who, as in agriculture and viticulture, are wondering what we should have done and what we have not done with regard to the construction of the biogas power plants, on the grounds that they would be less profitable than nuclear electricity. Spreading costs over 300 years, as envisaged in high politics, does not convince "electro-dependent" companies that threaten to relocate. If an aluminum factory or a brick factory can relocate, viticulture can only suffer unless it decides to produce its own electricity. This would be possible if the conditions for free access to electricity production were met and the preservation of special interests was not orchestrated.
A brief, approximate calculation estimates that 40 000 tonnes the amount of marc and effluent produced by 15 000 hectares of vine, which would give 20 millions of methane m3, or 30 million kWh / year, equivalent to half the potential production of wastewater treatment plants in Alsace, twice the potential of pig farms and representing 20% of the potential of cattle farms.

Valued in electricity, the marcs of the vineyard could represent a turnover of 3 M € (millions of euros) if the feed-in tariff of the electricity was 10 cents. Recall that it ranges from 15 to 17 cents / kWh in Baden-Württemberg, a country where 500 biogas plants are in operation. If the electricity was sold in Germany, the marks would therefore bring in more than 4 M €. The same quantity of brandy, at 3% of potential alcohol, valued as distillery alcohol represents 2,8 € million of turnover if everything was marketed at the Onivins, taking into account European aid (187 € / hl), and 1,2 € million turnover on the alcohol market (84 € / hl).

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The transformation into electricity of the wine-making effluents would be all the more a good industrial project for the vineyard that it could help to unload the purification plants whose sludge could also be fermented. It should be noted that many farmers want to take advantage of the need to upgrade their effluent collection facilities to build biogas plants. They are waiting for the promises of the state to be made about the feed-in tariff and to comply with European directives.
Meanwhile, methane, 21 times more impacting on the greenhouse effect than CO2, continues to escape from manure pits. Similarly, the vineyard and its distillery manufacturers, also considering the upgrading of their facilities, could seize this opportunity to build a biogas plant.

David Lefebvre

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