Northern Ireland Peat Moss for Heat, Electricity, and Peat Moss

Peat for Heat, the Irish believe you use a ‘spid’ for hand cutting turf

By Gregory Jackson

Irish turf collecting
Every spring the rural populations of Northern Ireland have been going out to their turf banks to cut peat. The peat cuts easily into log-shaped pieces of turf, exactly resembling fire-starter logs.

The rural Irish have been using peat for a thousand years as a fuel source for making a fire to heat their homes and cooking. They use a “spid” the Irish way of saying “spade” that a handful of neighbors practicing turf cutting (YouTube video) demonstrating how the Irish used to cut peat. Northern Irish counties of West Mayo had 155,961, West Donegal had 66,326, and Offaly had 64,146 peat soil hectares, making them the top three peatlands of Ireland were as abundant as a forest, but the region does not have trees. And by the 17th century, peat became Ireland’s source of fuel.

However in the 19th century, the Irish viewed peatlands as wastelands; those who lived in these regions were considered a population living in poverty.

Dail (Irish parliament) commissioned a comprehensive plan to reclaim and increase peat productivity. So they created the Turf Development Board, now called Bord na Mona. Bord na Mona is the country’s largest peat and peat moss outputs of milled peat, peat briquettes, and peat for electricity.

In 2000 and 2005, Dail commissioned Bord na Mona to operate three new peat-powered power plants producing a total capacity of 370 mWh, and 3 million tons of peat per year with a turnover of 38 million Euro

Peat is Formed Just like Bio-Energy Produced from an Anaerobic Digester
Peat is formed by the breakdown of organic material like moss and plants that decompose slowly in wet, acidic and anaerobic conditions. Groundz just finished a 28-page market report Phase 1 for an anaerobic digester at Case Western Reserve University Farm called Squire Valleevue and Valley Ridge. While organic material in an acidic and anaerobic state as found in peatlands and bogs produce peat and peat moss with bio-fuel properties so does an anaerobic digester from organic, recycled waste. In fact, after an anaerobic digester produces CNG and electricity, its waste product is digestate with similar nutrient properties that can be a peat moss substitute, produced in 28 days.

A mixed plug flow-type digester creates organic fiber in similar nutrient and texture properties as Irish peat moss, as a bio-fuel waste product. U.S. national estimates calculate that peat moss produced this way can process 30 million cubic yards for landscaping, animal bedding, and gardening.

Irish peat moss litter (how we know peat moss today), was used as animal bedding in 1954. Peat moss use in gardening and horticulture, say for growing mushrooms, potatoes, carrots, celery, brassicas, broccoli, and cauliflower were at the experimental phases. In 2003, Irish peat moss producers harvest 2.6 million cubic meters for horticulture from peat produces Bord na Mona, three other companies, and at least 30 smaller producers.


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