Animal farm powers village in England
The future of community energy is being pioneered near the small English village of Hatherop where a power station using biogas or 'digester gas' was commissioned.
Powered by agricultural biomass, including chicken litter, cow dung and pig slurry, residents benefit from this low cost alternative to oil, coal and foreign gas.
Hatherop is one of the first villages in the United Kingdom to benefit from power derived from chicken litter, cow manure and pig slurry.
This sustainable energy technology allows production of local power, called "distributed energy". This type of energy production reduces energy waste, reliance on fossil fuels, energy imports and costs. This is because the plant is fuelled by naturally decaying biological matter.
As well as energy security, this technology brings low cost heat, electricity and new jobs to rural areas. The process has an added benefit by capturing smells normally generated by farms in a dome and burning them in the energy production process.
Local farms deliver animal waste and crops, such as maize and grass, as the fuel for the plant. After the process of extracting the methane from the feed stock, farmers will use the residual, called "digestate", as fertiliser for new crops for food and animal feed. Looking like a giant muffin, the plant will produce 350 kW of electricity per hour, enough to supply 175 homes with electricity.
Local energy delivers local benefits
An AD plant on a farm delivers socio-economic benefits in rural areas: The farmer earns money from his waste, the plant reduces energy and fertiliser costs while stabilising income. Adopted widely, more jobs are created in run plants, food will cost less and farmers are more competitive.
Jeremy Iles and James Hart are the tenant farmers that built and own the biogas plant. James Hart comments: "I am delighted with the plant so far and look forward to reducing our emissions and agricultural costs while giving sustainable energy a boost."
The owners will benefit from free heat for animals, grain drying and housing; previously a significant expense. But there are other environmental benefits from the biogas process that reduce costs for the farmer. The biogas plant encloses and traps any smell from the waste and burns it in a combined heat and power (CHP) plant.
The leftover liquid waste from the biogas plant, known as "digestate" can be used on the farm as a powerful fertiliser that normally is a major cost to farmers and the environment.
Normal fertiliser production uses large amounts of fossil fuel, emits significant quantities of CO2 and the finished product is transported over great distances to farmers. Now the fertiliser is produced locally at the power plant, there is no necessity in importing it from the US or the Middle East.
Jeremy Iles, the other plant partner, says: "We are happy to minimise the impact of our agricultural operations on our neighbours and rural community.”
The project was funded by a grant from the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) and the project is part financed by the European Agricultural Fund for European Development 2007-2013: Europe Investing in Rural Areas.
James Hart concludes: "It should be acknowledged that the project is being delivered through the South West RDA with DEFRA as the Managing Authority and we are grateful for their help."
World leading plant
Alfagy was chosen as the main Combined Heat and Power (CHP) supplier after a competition against leading manufacturers such as GE Energy, Jenbacher, MWM and MAN.
"As the UK is 30 years behind continental Europe in energy efficiency, this is an important demonstration of a sustainable energy future," said Peter Kindt, the chairman of Alfagy. "What makes this project exciting is that farmers deliver energy to the local community, a new business model for farmers," adds Peter Kindt.
The plant started generating power for the first time on 5 April 2011.
The AD plant and inclusion of the CHP was designed by Frank Kenny of Water and Waste Services Ltd. He also contributed significantly to the project management and comments, "It has been a great pleasure working with James and Jeremy. The plant start up has been without any hitches and by using WWS's process expertise and design, a very efficient plant has been delivered that is a model to reduce Greenhouse Gases across the agricultural sector."