£2.5M green energy scheme reaches new milestone, as first site takes shape
24th August 2010
A ground-breaking £2.5M renewable energy project, which is changing the face of farming, has reached a major milestone.
After the completion of preliminary work on-site and the construction of service roads and clamps to hold material to feed the plant, building has now begun on the two large tanks, which will form the centrepiece of the pioneering scheme.
Leading green energy specialist Farmgen is behind the revolutionary, farm-based Anaerobic Digestion (AD) plant at Warton, near Preston.
The site at Carr Farm sees farmer Jonathan Rigby moving out of dairy farming, which his family had been involved in for generations, into so-called ‘energy farming’.
The construction of the two new AD tanks makes the start of a new era not only for Carr Farm, but for many farm operations across the UK, as part of Farmgen’s £30 million investment to create the biggest ‘energy farming’ expansion programme in Britain.
The Warton site is among the first farms in the UK to make the switch, as farmers of the future look set to make more money out of ‘energy farming’ than traditional dairy, animal husbandry and arable farming.
Facing falling prices for farm products and squeezed by the supermarket giants, more and more farmers are realising there’s a more sustainable future in helping to avoid Britain’s looming energy crisis and supporting the move towards a low carbon economy.
Industry experts forecast the country faces a ‘generation gap’ over the next 5-10 years, as the UK’s ageing fleet of fossil-fuel-burning power plants come offline to meet tough new EU emissions targets.
Analysts believe it will be at least another 8-10 years before the first of Britain’s next generation of nuclear power plants are ready to start filling the gap.
“Renewables and other sources of green energy will play a critical role in providing the country’s power supplies over the next decade,” explained Farmgen’s chief operating officer, Ed Cattigan.
“As the country moves over to green energy, as part of the move to a low carbon economy, there is a strong opportunity for many farmers in the UK to create a sustainable and stronger future for themselves by switching to ‘energy farming’.
“Britain needs a balanced power generating portfolio, so there will always be demand for renewables and other forms of micro-generation.
“The Government is making it attractive for farmers to switch over, which is more than the supermarkets are doing to keep families in farming.”
Crops are being grown across the Fylde to supply the new Warton plant, which will start providing renewable energy to power more than 1,000 homes next year.
This will include local businesses, such as The Villa, the acclaimed hotel and restaurant in Wrea Green, which has signed up to take green energy from Carr Farm.
Farmgen has put together an impressive consortium of expert UK-based firms to deliver the plant, which marks the first phase in its £30 million expansion.
The consortium includes a number of leading members of the Anaerobic Digestion and Biogas Association (ADBA).
The industry’s latest technology and know-how is being supplied to the project by leading UK process and technology business Monsal, which has been involved in more than 200 AD projects and has the largest team of ‘biogas-to-energy’ technology specialists in the country.
Other members include Kirk Environmental, a specialist company manufacturing AD tanks, and Edina, one of the country’s leading renewable power generation specialists, which will supply the plant’s generating equipment.
Engineering specialist Agrilek, which operates from Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, has been brought on board to connect the plant to the national grid.
Inenco, based in Lytham St Annes, Lancs, manages around £1 billion of gas and electricity for high-profile clients like Marks & Spencer. Its role in the consortium will be to trade the energy produced at Carr Farm.
The new AD plant will use crops from nearby fields grown by Green Energy Farmers Ltd, to create the ‘biogas’ to generate 1MW of electricity, which will then be exported to the national grid.
The overall Farmgen consortium also includes water-treatment experts Eimco Water Technologies Ltd, based in Tonbridge, Kent.
“We are delighted to have reached this important milestone for the project,” said Ed Cattigan. “The expertise involved is second to none and is another sign of our commitment to the AD industry and our belief in its strong future in the UK.
“These firms are leading the way in AD with cutting-edge technology and each brings their knowledge, skills and enthusiasm for the sector.”
Work to create Farmgen’s second £2.5m AD plant in Silloth, Cumbria, is also set to start later this year.
AD plants are already commonplace across Europe – with around 4,000 operating in Germany alone. AD plants are broadly carbon-neutral and compared with other alternative renewable energy generators, such as wind turbines, they have significantly less visual impact and deliver reliable renewable energy 24 hours a day whatever the weather.
As part of Farmgen’s expansion programme, planning applications are being prepared for more plants across Lancashire, Cumbria and Staffordshire, as well as future sites which are currently being lined up across the country.
The Blackpool-based company provides a complete turn-key service for on-farm AD plants, from the drawing board to full operation.
It helps farmers and site owners by developing, building and operating the facility, providing total support throughout the planning stage, through the construction and commissioning of the plant and into energy production.
Farmgen can run and manage a farm’s AD business – while providing a guaranteed income level for farmers for up to 10 years. The company can also source finance and offer a joint venture approach to farmers interested in a possible AD project.
To see progress on-site, go to www.farmgen.co.uk where you can view a live webcam feed or watch a time-lapse video.