An investigation of the potential adoption of anaerobic digestion for energy production in Irish farms

Anaerobic digestion (AD) has been recognised as an effective means of simultaneously producing energy while reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Despite having a large agriculture sector, Ireland has experienced little uptake of the technology, ranking 20th within the EU-28. It is, therefore, necessary to understand the general opinions, willingness to adopt, and perceived obstacles of potential adopters of the technology. As likely primary users of this technology, a survey of Irish cattle farmers was conducted to assess the potential of on-farm AD for energy production in Ireland. The study seeks to understand farmers’ motivations, perceived barriers, and preferred business model. The study found that approximately 41% of the 91 respondents were interested in installing AD on their farming enterprise within the next five years. These Likely Adopters tended to have a higher level of education attainment, and together, currently hold 4379 cattle, potentially providing 37,122 t year−1 of wastes as feedstock, resulting in a potential CO2 reduction of 800.65 t CO2-eq. year−1. Moreover, the results indicated that the primary consideration preventing the implementation of AD is a lack of information regarding the technology and high investment costs. Of the Likely Adopters and Possible Adopters, a self-owned and operated plant was the preferred ownership structure, while 58% expressed an interest in joining a co-operative scheme. The findings generated provide valuable insights into the willingness of farmers to implement AD and guidance for its potential widespread adoption.
Published online: Accepted - 20 January 2021; Published online - 27 January 2021
anaerobic digestion, farm-scale, decentralised, biogas production
O’Connor, S., Ehimen, E., Pillai, S. C., Power, N., Lyons, G. A. and Bartlett, J. (2021) ‘An Investigation of the Potential Adoption of Anaerobic Digestion for Energy Production in Irish Farms’, Environments. MDPI AG, 8(2), p. 8. doi: 10.3390/environments8020008.