New renewable energy targets in Britain and the rest of the EU are leading to an increasing demand for biofuel. In 2013, Iggesund Paperboard’s mill in Workington invested 108 million pounds so that all the company’s energy requirements can be met solely with biofuel. When the mill’s new biofuel boiler went online the company’s biofuel needs increased by 600,000 annual tonnes. This created a significant new income opportunity for farmers in Cumbria.
In its land surveys DEFRA has concluded that large parts of Cumbria are highly suitable for the cultivation of energy crops. Iggesund Paperboard is prepared to sign long-term contracts with landowners and farmers who want to supplement their livelihood with income from energy crop cultivation. The company has therefore prepared plans under which it would provide partial financial support for the transition, contribute advice on planting and best practice, and handle both harvesting and transporting the crop.
Willow (Salix) is a short rotation coppice (SRC) crop which is extremely well suited to northern temperate zones and therefore thrives in the cool wet conditions and soil types of Cumbria. Willow has already been successfully cultivated as an energy crop for several decades in both the UK and Scandinavia.
It is planted in the spring, produces its first crop after only three years, and can then be harvested every second or third year, giving a plantation life of 20 to 25 years. After the end of its productive life, the coppice can be dug up and the land returned to conventional cropping.
Willow gives a high yield, has a high energy value, and improves the soil for subsequent crops if the farmer later chooses to grow something else. Importantly, growing willow does not require obtaining permission for a change of land use, as willow is classified in the UK as an agricultural crop.
Our calculations done in consultation with agricultural experts indicate that well-managed willow plantations can give a good and sustainable return. A specific agricultural site’s exact yield depends on a variety of conditions ranging from the soil’s quality class to the care taken in cultivating the plantation.
Iggesund is happy to share these calculations to initiate discussions about possible contract cultivation.
Iggesund Paperboard was founded in 1685 and has made its living from the land in one way or another ever since. Its end products have varied from iron when the company was young to today’s specialisation in high-quality paperboard. Iggesund forms part of the Swedish forest industry group Holmen, founded in 1609. In addition to paperboard, the group produces newsprint and sawn timber. Holmen is one of Sweden’s largest private forest owners, with land holdings totalling 1.3 million hectares.
The group also has 21 wholly or partly owned hydroelectric power plants. All of Holmen’s forests are certified in accordance with the forest management standards FSC and PEFC. The group’s annual report for 2011 was selected as Sweden’s best sustainability accounting. Iggesund purchased the Workington mill at the end of the 1980s. Since then, including the new biofuel boiler, the company has invested more than 200 million pounds to bring the mill up to top international level. This is where Iggesund produces its paperboard Incada, one of the most widely used paperboards in the UK and a quality leader in its segment. The biofuel boiler will be in operation for decades, thus creating a long-term sustainable market for energy crops in Cumbria. Iggesund grows its own crop adjacent to the mill to function as a demonstration site.