Prograss project: bioenergy and nature protection

Combining bioenergy production and nature protection

For 3 and a half years, the PROGRASS project will focus on the possibilities - economically profitable and ecologically acceptable - of using grasslands to produce bioenergy in Europe. Endowed with 1,6 million euros from the European Union, the project should allow the development of an agronomic system which, on the one hand, guarantees the conservation of habitats and, on the other hand, opens up the possibility of bioenergy production not competing with food production.

The potential of the areas concerned is significant: 1,5 million hectares of meadows in Germany, 2,2 million in England and 0,6 million in Estonia would, in principle, be usable for biomass and bioenergy production, even if compositions and quality are very uneven. Some are subject to protective measures. One of the challenges of the project is also the creation of new sources of income for small agricultural enterprises and the upgrading of economically disadvantaged regions.

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The approach proposed by PROGRASS will be tested in several stages. In a first demonstration phase, a mobile pilot system allowing the conversion of biomass into solid fuel will be implemented in three European model regions: in Estonia, England and Germany. At the same time, the technical possibilities of application will be studied. In addition, researchers will need to determine to what extent PROGRASS is, from an economic and socio-economic point of view, a solution for the future in the regions studied and whether its approach can be transposed. For the conversion of grassland biomass into fuel, a new process will be used and gradually developed, with the objective of using 70% (at most) of the energy contained in the biomass.

PROGRASS consists of 8 sub-projects, involving the German, British and Estonian partners, which will study, in scientific and practical terms, the environmental, socio-economic and technical aspects of this new approach. The European Union is supporting the project within the framework of the LIFE + environmental policy and governance program.

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The participants in PROGRASS are the University of Kassel (coordinator), the University of Bonn, the Estonian University of Life Sciences, the Institute of Grasslands and Environmental Research of Wales, the Vogelsberg region, the Regional Ministry of Environment of Hesse and industrial partners involved in the application.

Source: BE Germany

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