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County's farmers launch biofuels co-operative

FARMERS in Pembrokeshire have launched a co-operative to produce, market and supply biofuels.

Pembrokeshire Bio Energy will focus on supplying wood chips for automated heating of buildings such as hotels, swimming pools and large detached properties.

A grant of 50% is now available from Objective One to owners wishing to install biomass boilers.

Farmer Paul Ratcliffe, chairman of the steering group, has established a number of trial plots of miscanthus, willow coppice and reed canary grass, all of which are already being used as fuel crops in other parts of the UK.

Feasibility studies commissioned by PBE have concluded that miscanthus, in particular, has excellent potential in Pembrokeshire.

"We have spent a year setting up Pembrokeshire Bio Energy Ltd and we believe energy crops will have a major long- term future," he said.

"The new Welsh Assembly Government building in Cardiff will be heated by wood chips, which have the environmental benefits of being carbon dioxide neutral and providing protected habitats for wildlife.

"They also provide a way of supporting farmers and woodland owners and keep money in the local economy."

He said PBE is a farmer owned co-operative which welcomes new members.

The company is the fruit of an initiative that includes a broad cross section of Pembrokeshire organisations.

They include the South and West Wales Machinery Ring, the farming unions, Pembrokeshire Young Farmers, the Pembrokeshire enterprise network Planed and the West Wales Eco Centre.

Additional support has come from Pembrokeshire County Council, the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park's sustainable development fund and the Wales Co-operative Centre.

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