In this case, success means economic success. So the fact that a bioenergetic project can be financially independent and is in the black. Obtaining a high-yielding harvest at all or integrating a new crop into the crop rotation is of course an important partial success, but this alone does not guarantee the economic success of the entire company. Since I am not a farmer / energy manager myself and I draw my knowledge from various projects (e.g. on energy crops in Brandenburg) and from discussions with farmers, I am particularly pleased about the feedback from "practicing farmers" on this article.
In this case, I would like to focus on the great importance of numerical ratios, which influence each agricultural business more or less subtly and whose expression, sometimes without the concrete (quantitative) knowledge of the farmer, leads to the economic success of a season. In the service of our fast-moving times, I would like to present the core ideas as a list. As an inspiration, this can offer the opportunity to discuss one or the other point together and in more detail.
In many respects the decisive numerical relationships of a traditional agricultural enterprise for the cultivation of food coincide with those for the cultivation of biomass for energy production - but new ones have also been added which can be examined more closely.
List of central numerical relationships in a bioenergetic company
The following conditions play a central role in the field of bioenergy and influence the economic viability of the business. I only listed conditions that are directly related to the crop.
- Biomass yield / per hectare (certainly the classic under the circumstances)
- Biomass yield / per time
- Sugar or oil content / per dt of biomass
- Lignin and cellulose content / per dt biomass
- Water content / per dt of biomass
- Energy consumption for one cultivation cycle / per hectare and energy crop (including preparation and transport)
- Use of fertilizer / per hectare and energy crop
- Shelf life in days / per energy plant
- Number of cultivation types / per hectare (monoculture, mixed fruit cultivation)
- Market price in euros / per liter of bioethanol
- Methane content / per cubic meter of biogas
- Euro cents feed/ per kWh
The list can (should) be continued or individual points can be further differentiated and the relationships and dependencies between them can be described. Depending on the complexity of an agricultural business (e.g. with or without a biogas plant), certain points of course become more important for an energy manager. Every single point contributes directly to the increase or decrease in business success. Knowing the characteristics of the most important numerical ratios in your own company also means knowing about the quality of your own product. As an example, when harvesting sugar beet (LINK: sugar beet as an energy crop) the sugar content is known to fluctuate by a few percentage points and a pure sale according to German (supply contracts), without taking into account the exact Sugar content, can lead to the fact that the own harvest is not sold according to the real market value. There is an interesting insight into the formation of the market price for sugar beet here on the Land & Forst website.
In general, of course, there is no DAS recipe for success, and different combinations of the conditions mentioned can, depending on the location factors and the farmer's ideas, lead to a successful bioenergy operation. In my experience, being aware of the central conditions and the possibilities for influencing not only increases the flexibility of a cultivation strategy, but also the willingness to experiment and the passion for cultivation of the energy host.
Some questions about inspiration for energy operators
- Which conditions are important for my cultivation strategy?
- Which of these conditions are particularly critical for my economic success?
- Which can I influence?
- Which can I influence particularly easily (time, cost and energy effective)?
- What feedback options do I have to be able to observe the developments?
I hope you enjoy experimenting and of course I look forward to first-hand comments.