MSc Thesis in Renewable Energy

From 2011 to 2014 I undertook a masters by research (MSc) programme at IT Carlow under the ITC Postgraduate Research Scholarship Programme. A slight deviation from my undergraduate in architectural technology, this MSc in renewable heat provision from Miscanthus allowed me to investigate renewable service provision in the form of renewable heat from solid biomass.

Through this study I was privileged to visit a number of European countries in order to gather data and information as well as disseminate my research at two international conferences, the papers of which have been published in the conference proceedings.


Irish energy supply is at risk due to high import dependence, high fossil fuel dependence and the financial penalties due to increased GHG and carbon emissions. Heat is the primary end use of energy in Ireland, however the provision of renewable heat has been neglected in favour of easier-to-implement electricity. Most renewable heat programmes to date have involved wood-based fuels. But due to our forestry levels, it wouldn’t take long for imported fuel to be required. Energy crops would allow us to tap into the rich Irish agricultural heritage and expertise by supplying an indigenous supply of fuel that can be used for heat, electricity and even transport energy.


With such a broad topic to cover in only two years, the project was broken up into two milestones. Firstly, the literature review attempted to discover the current state of the sector and found that, while theoretical potential of miscanthus in Ireland is clear on paper, the reality is quite different. Due to climatic variations, lack of education and other non-technical barriers such as risk, miscanthus’ potential in Ireland has not been realised. Secondly, the case study reinforced the theoretical potential by showing that, if barriers were overcome, IT Carlow could viably implement a range of renewable energy solutions to cater for heat only or combined heat and power, with only a moderate payback period.


In order to overcome the barriers that exist a framework has been assembled, detailing a potential route for overcoming said barriers and making miscanthus, and other energy crops, successful in Ireland. The wide scope of the project has created a ‘stepping stone’ for further research by highlighting the areas of this multi-faceted issue that require further, detailed analysis.