Anaerobic Digestion: Muck To Riches?
Buoyed by a fact-finding mission to Germany, where members of Carter Jonas’ Energy Team toured biodigester installations across a range of agricultural and farming operations, the property consultancy believes there is significant income to be made from the development of biodigester plants in the right location in the eastern region.
The process of anaerobic digestion (AD), which takes place in biodigester silos, has many potential sources of income for the owners:
- selling electricity into the National Grid
- selling Renewable Obligation Certificates to power companies
- charging gate fees to accept domestic, municipal and industrial organic waste for safe disposal
- selling excess heat produced from the AD process into community-based or small-scale, local industrial heating systems
- off-setting the cost of compound fertilisers
Calculations made by Carter Jonas in consultation with Biogas Nord - a leading developer in the AD field – say that a 300KW plant could produce electricity for approximately 600 homes per year.
Such a farm-based plant could take in municipal waste which could capitalise on gate fees. In May 2007 the local authority in Ludlow, Shropshire began kerbside collections of food waste for feeding into a local biodigester.
Carter Jonas sees on-site biodigesters significantly reducing disposal costs for organic farming waste such as slurry, where 1 metric tonne of cow slurry could convert to around £6 worth of electricity.
Nutrient-rich fertilisers from the AD process are a bi-product which can also be used by the source farm or marketed to other users.
Another benefit of bio-digestion is that the process reduces odours from slurries.
Recent figures produced for the Government’s waste campaign WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme) reporting that the annual cost of food waste in the UK is £10 billion, help reinforce the business case for biodigesters down on the farm even to everyday country folk like those in Ambridge.
Iain Nott of Carter Jonas, who is a leading member of the consultancy’s Energy Team, commented:
"We are 15 years behind Germany in seeing the potential of biodigesters to address not only aspects of the green agenda, but to shore-up the long term future of farming fortunes.
"Biodigester plants are no longer the exclusive preserve of those seeking an alternative country life.
"You know they are on the verge of becoming mainstream when they are a hot topic in The Archers and canny, hard-nosed, successful businessmen like characters Matt Crawford and Brian Aldridge are keen to see their estates and farms get a slice of AD action in Ambridge."