Bioenergy represents the largest share of renewable energy sources in Austria. In recent years, the extraction of energy from the biomass of renewable raw materials has gained enormous importance. Only through a sufficient supply of raw materials can the goal of reducing CO2 emissions declared by the EU be achieved. Austria must reduce emissions of climate-damaging greenhouse gases, for example in the areas of transport, space heating or agriculture, by a total of 36 percent by 2030. By increasing the share of renewable energy from the sun, water, biomass, etc. in the energy mix and increasing energy efficiency in generation and utilization, fossil fuels can be saved and the greenhouse effect caused by humans can be reduced.
In recent years, high-yielding energy crops with added ecological value have increasingly become the focus of agricultural research in order to expand the energy crop spectrum. A consortium of research institutions and business partners is working on the promising perennial, tall-flowering energy crops Sida (Sida hermaphrodita L.) and Silphia (Silphium perfoliatum L.), along the entire value chain, starting with production and ending with the utilization of the raw material, including economic evaluation. The common goal is to create competitive raw materials with maximum energy yield, adapted to the different utilization scenarios.
Voices on bioenergy and bioenergy crops
How important are bioenergy crops for reaching the EU climate goals? "To tackle global warming and scarcity of raw materials, it is crucial to optimise our biomass potential use. Gasification and Anaerobic Digestion are currently the most promising conversion technologies as they follow the cascading principle and incentivise the recycling of nutrients."
Jan Stambasky President of the European Biogas Association (EBA) Franz Kirchmeyr Vice President of the European Biogas Association and President of ARGE Kompost und Biogas.
What role will perennial bioenergy crops play in the future for biomass production in Austria? "New additional as well as sustainably produced feedstocks for the bioenergy sector will gain enormous importance in the long run. Fast growing bioenergy crops promise larger yields, with less maintenance and fertilization, and thus a better cost-benefit calculation."
DI Christoph Pfemeter Managing Director of the Austrian Biomass Association.
Where do you see the added value of implementing additional renewable resources? "The implementation of additional renewable raw materials enables an individual adaptation to given framework conditions, an increase of biodiversity in the intensified agricultural landscape, a risk diversification to secure the biomass supply, the chance to occupy new niches, to create new sources of income and to make a significant contribution to sustainable climate protection. "
Dr. Markus Gansberger Senior Expert / Head of the SIDecA research project AGES, Vienna.
Can Sida hermaphrodita play a role as a raw material for Austrian pellet production in the future? "Due to its very good processability and fuel properties, I see a high potential for utilization, especially in regional concepts where cultivation, pelleting and utilization are intertwined. It is therefore a very interesting alternative for wood, which is already a scarce resource."
Dr. Martin Weigl Division Manager Bioenergy and Chemical Analysis Holzforschung Austria, Vienna
Are renewable raw materials of social importance for rural areas? "Decentralization of raw material production and energy generation strengthens regional attractiveness. The gained ecological and economic added values stay in the rural regions and secure jobs in the region as well as the existence of the involved stakeholders."
DI Philipp von Gehren Research Associate AGES, Vienna
What do you see as the advantages of cultivating perennial energy crops compared to annual bioenergy crops such as corn with regard to biodiversity as well as soil as a resource? "When cultivating perennial crops such as the growing silphia, there is no need for soil cultivation and the field is driven over significantly less often. Among other things, this allows the soil to regain its natural water absorption and water retention capacity, which reduces the risk of surface nutrient runoff due to water erosion. Inaddition, permanent crops are associated with positive effects on above- and below-ground biodiversity (bumblebees, hoverflies, earthworms, and others)."
Dr. Siegfried Schittenhelm Senior Scientific Advisor Institute of Crop Production and Soil Science, Julius Kühn Institute, Braunschweig, Germany.
What are the benefits associated with perennial, flowering energy crops for flowering visitors? "Energy crops, which usually bloom over a long period of time, improve the food base of insects. This encourages bees and other flower visitors and ensures pollination and its positive effects on the ecosystem."
Dr. Josef Mayr Senior Expert / Head of the Bioenergy-Silphium Research Project AGES, Vienna.
Last updated: 23.01.2022