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UK energy crops firm helps Moldova to boost energy security

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Moldova is using UK green technology to upgrade 19 heat-only boiler plants that will run on home-grown Miscanthus biomass fuel.

The plants will generate 55,000 megawatt-hours (MWh) per year, providing thermal heat energy to 5,500 flats, 110 houses, 40 businesses, 12 kindergartens, 25 education facilities, and eight medical institutions.

The project, hailed as one of Moldova’s most innovative to date by UK-based Miscanthus specialist, Terravesta, will see 19 district heating systems owned by Moldova’s leading energy supplier, Termoelectrica, powered by Miscanthus - each with 1-2.5 MW capacity.

The first smaller-scale prototype is 50% government-funded by ANCD, 50% Termoelectrica funded, and run in collaboration with Terravesta, IBERS and Aberystwyth University, and implemented by the Moldovan Institute of Genetics, Physiology and Plant Protection. Following a successful outcome, a phased upgrade of 19 of Termoelectrica’s suburban heat-only boiler plants to Miscanthus biomass technology is proposed.

Termoelectrica’s general manager, Veaceslav Eni, said: “This technical proposal is integrated with the strategic vision of expanding the services of production and centralised supply of thermal energy, as it offers the possibility to increase the quality of services offered to certain categories of consumers who, due to positioning on the outskirts of Chisinau, have difficulties in accessing a good quality supply with district heating services.”

“Moldova is entirely dependent on imported gas, electricity and oil and this initiative will resolve fuel poverty, using the profitable, sustainable crop, Miscanthus, which will benefit the environment and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels,” commented Anatolii Sandu, Terravesta’s R&D representative in south-east Europe and CIS countries.

“The project will begin by converting smaller domestic heating systems, which will be a prototype for the bigger next step to implement more suburban Miscanthus-powered Termoelectrica boilers.”

According to Sandu, Miscanthus has been grown in trials in Moldova since 2014 and results show it not only thrives there, but it also sequesters carbon while it grows and has a positive impact on soil health and biodiversity. He added: “The crop is not only a clean fossil alternative; it can remove contaminants from farmland in a process called phytoremediation.”

William Cracroft-Eley, chairman of Terravesta, the biotechnology firm which was implemented the technology in the UK, said Miscanthus can produce a crop every year for up to 20 years. He explained that growing Miscanthus to fuel the Termoelectrica heating systems will not only provide an alternative energy source, it will also contribute to Moldova’s socioeconomic growth and income diversification.

“It will create employment for those involved in crop production, harvesting, and transportation, fuel formatting storage and end-use, together with societal and environmental benefits,” said Cracoft-Eley.

“The crop’s ability to clean soils means that in 10 years, Moldova will not only have energy security but good farmland to go back to as well.”