Willow Woodchip Producers and Providers
Patrick and Kevin Harley are the Managing Partners of a 70-acre farm at Curraghleas, Letterkenny. The Harley farm has been in family ownership for two generations. The farm currently has 12ha (30 acres) of land under short rotation coppice (SRC) willow. They also have 5.25ha (13acres) planted with mixed forestry.
The Harley brothers believe that there is a growing demand for biomass fuel in Donegal. Their project was developed as a result of the Irish Governments commitment to carbon targets for the year 2015.
The establishment of willow involves planting, stringent weed control especially in the first year and then chip-harvesting 8 to 10 times on a two-year cycle giving the plantation a life of between 19 and 25 years. This chip is further processed i.e. dried to moisture content of less than 20%. The drying infrastructure, which is capable of drying almost 350 wet tonnes at any one time, is available as a service to dry 3-4 chip crops for local producers in the Donegal area per annum.
The Drying process consists of a 240m² multi-purpose drying floor, an automated wood chip boiler with associated feed system and heat accumulator which supplies biomass heat to the drying floor.
The drying floor is heated using two large centrifugal fans, which have an air intake through a Heat Exchanger, to supply heated air to the crop. The air is forced into the airtight tunnel, through the ducts under the crop, and then rises from the vents in the floor through the crop. The heated-moist air eventually exits the building via the slatted timber ventilation above the 5-metre concrete walls.
The dry chip may be delivered directly to the customer in bulk or it may be collected.
The ‘end product’ Dry Chip is suitable for large commercial premises i.e. Hotels, Hospitals, Nursing Homes, Schools and Swimming-pools etc. where a lot of central heating and hot water is required. There is over 40% of a saving by using wood-chip fuel as opposed to oil. (Details of boiler suppliers are available on request)
The Harley brothers believe this facility is a flagship project for the rural community and the green economy in Donegal.