Poland finds potential in potato power

Poland finds potential in potato power

Boffins at the Institute for Tuber Science in the southern city of Gliwice have found a way to extract industrial amounts of energy from the humble potato.

Photo: wikipedia/Agricultural Research Service/US Department of Agriculture

Photo: wikipedia/Agricultural Research Service/US Department of Agriculture

With the current regional political situation having a potentially disastrous effect on the country’s energy supply, Polish politicians recently put forward the idea of an energy union which would act as an energy bloc when buying gas or oil from external sources.

While Prime Minister Donald Tusk mooted the idea of a European energy union, deputy prime minister and economy minsiter Janusz Piechocinski also stated that Poland should concentrate on taking advantage of its coal supply, at least until 2050.

But for all the shale gas, potential LNG imports and coal supplies, there is one source of energy which is to make its mark on Poland’s energy scene: the potato.

“Poland has lots of potatoes – hundreds of millions of tons – so it’s enough for the country to ween itself off Russian gas,” said Remi Adekoya, Guardian contributor and editor at the Warsaw Business Journal.

Power plant surrounded by… plants

“Something like getting energy out of a potato sounds like a joke, but this works,” said our correspondent Jaroslaw Juszkiewicz from Polish Radio Katowice, who visited the power plant.

“The experimental power plant looks just like any other plant, but it is surrounded by… plants,” he added.

According to Dr Jan Jarzabek from the Institute for Tuber Science, two acres of potatoes is enough to produce 1MW of electricity.

“We are experimenting on sweet potatoes which seem to produce more energy because there are more carbohydrates in them,” Jarzabek told our correspondent.

EU excitement over new source

Potato power has also made its mark in Brussels, the seat of the European Union. “The [EU’s] energy commissioner is totally excited about the prospects of this,” said Clara Lindhardt, a correspondent for Danish Radio in Brussels.

“The Danish government is interested in buying this technology,” Lindhardt said, adding that “Denmark has tried with wind power for decades now and it keeps being too expensive.”

Lindhardt added that Danish potato farmers “also see possibilities here.”

Social unrest?

However, with the government requisitioning Polish potato stocks, vodka producers in the country are up in arms, and have planned to protest in Warsaw.

“We are going to have a potato war,” said Adekoya, adding that due to the new government policy, “producers are going to have limited access to potatoes.”

“This is definitely going to lead to a rise in vodka prices which could also lead to social unrest,” he added.

Luckily, the technology is still in the test phase, so there is no need to panic just yet. But if a solution to Poland’s energy problems isn’t found soon it may be lights out. (jb)

Categories: News in English

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