The council’s environment special purposes committee is to examine the green energy drive after Sinn Féin councillor Eoghan Jeffers said a project carried out in Lincolnshire, England, showed that using grass cuttings from that county’s 8,750km of roads provided enough electricity to power 4,500 homes a year and enough gas to power 1,100 homes.
Cork County Council has 12,600km of roads under its jurisdiction and has to cut verges on many of them during the summer.
Mr Jeffers called on the county council to carry out a similar study on biomass fuel usage and asked officials to prepare a report on unused land which could be utilised for urban farming projects.
We need to change our outlook on green energy. It should be explored. Verge grass could provide electricity for thousands of homes. Lands which will never be used for housing could also be used for grass-cutting, said Mr Jeffers.
He said he went on a delegation to the Basque country where urban farming was being encouraged and proving educational for children.
Sinn Féin councillor Des O’Grady supported his calls and said he was aware of a number of local authorities in England and Europe that had invested in special machinery which harvests verge cuttings for energy.
“They can turn grass and weeds into energy. It can be profitable and, at the very least, cost-neutral (to the county council),” he said.
Independent councillor Marcia D’Alton, an environmental engineer, said green energy from roadside verges has “huge potential”.
She said as a first step, the environmental special purposes committee should fund a PhD student to carry out a study on it.
Fine Gael councillor Kevin Murphy, who is chairman of that committee, said he was very supportive of the ideas.
“Tidy Towns groups could work with the county council as well to help implement this,” he said.
Council chief executive Tim Lucey said officials would look at what surplus land was available that might not be used for housing.
“We need to look at what models are out there in other jurisdictions and develop pilot projects,” he said.
Mr Lucey said the council had successfully developed community allotments and said he would also look at the concept of utilising land for urban farms.
“This could change our total attitude to the use of wasteland,” said Mr Jeffers.