Guest blog by Sarah Green, Project Co-ordinator, Natura People Partnership Project

In December 2013 seven nature and conservation organisations came together to study carbon reduction and renewable energy measures in the UK, Belgium and the Netherlands.

Climate change is a real problem in the world – we know this and you know this – but what is less clear is how we tackle the problem.  How can we work with industry and government to have a lasting positive impact on our environment?

The RSPB’s role in this project is to investigate how we can turn the wetland biomass (reeds and rushes) found on our nature reserves into fuel.  Currently excess vegetation on reserves is cut (in many cases by hand!) on a yearly basis to make sure that the reedbeds remain suitable habitats for bitterns, bearded tits, water voles and wainscot moths.  Once cut, the material is often burnt or left to rot, as we have no other way to dispose of it.  For more information on managing reedbeds for bitterns, see here.

But! If we can find a viable way to harvest this material and turn it into something useful for domestic and commercial purposes, we could start changing the ways we source and use our energy.  These new technologies could provide an income stream for our reserves and the businesses carrying out the work.

So we put our money where our mouth is and invited 50 delegates from businesses and conservation organisations to visit Minsmere last month for a demonstration of machinery allowing the cutting, harvesting and briquetting of reeds, to turn them into a renewable energy fuel source.

AB Systems have designed and are testing the equipment as part of a nationwide pilot project funded by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC).  The project aims to identify renewable energy sources that benefit biodiversity and promote business growth. 

The European element comes from the CaRe-Lands project which match funds the DECC grant and lets us take the results of the briquetting process to a wider, broader level.  We hope that renewable energy will replace fossil fuels and will encourage communities to think about what they can do to lessen the impact of climate change.  CaRe-Lands is funded through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) through the INTERREG IV A 2 Mers Seas Zeëen Interreg Cross-border Programme 2007-2013.

For more information on this project please contact Sally Mills, Project Manager, on