New energy plant offers opportunities for growers
PUBLISHED: 04:01 22 October 2016 | UPDATED: 16:35 04 November 2019
East Anglia's biggest gas-to-grid crop anaerobic digestion (AD) plant, based on the Suffolk/Norfolk border, was launched this week.
The five megawatt Ellough AD plant, near Beccles, which is owned by agricultural finance specialists Privilege Finance and operated by AD management experts BioCow, is set to create a "major opportunity for local farmers to diversify their income stream", the company behind it said.
More than 60 people, including representatives of the renewables, engineering and farming industries and the local authorities, were at Wednesday's launch.
The plant is fed on a diet of maize, rye and sugar beet, supplied by around 40 local farmers. It provides renewable gas to National Grid Gas Distribution Ltd as part of its commitment to secure 80 renewable gas projects by 2020, and runs on 80,000 tonnes of crops a year.
Gerry Keegan, project finance manager at Privilege Finance, which is based in Cambridge, said: "The plant is performing really well. In addition to the biogas used for energy on-site, it is currently generating in excess of 1,000 cubic metres of biomethane per hour, which is supplied to National Grid Gas Distribution."
Ian Hall, who farms 1,600 acres of arable land at Grove Farm, Ringsfield, Beccles, is one of the plant's main feedstock suppliers.
"We used to grow predominantly wheat, oilseed rape, beans and barley, but the AD plant has opened up a new market for growing a wider variety of crops," he said. "This opportunity allows us to grow crops at a known market value. We're not as susceptible to world trends and market fluctuations, as we know what we'll get 'per tonne' from the plant.
"There are wider benefits too. Being able to expand the range of crops we grow has improved our rotations and, in turn, given us more flexibility."
Mr Hall also receives digestate, a nutrient-rich fertiliser, produced at the Ellough plant.
"The liquid digestate supplies useful amounts of nitrogen, phosphate, potash and sulphur, along with all-important trace elements, at a fraction of the cost of artificial fertilisers," he said.
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