The Wensleydale Creamery makes one of England’s best-loved varieties of cheese, but it also produces waste. Now, the bi-products are being put to use creating biogas – the latest evidence of the growing role of cheese in green energy production.
There is enough grass in Britain to power every household if it were turned into renewable gas, according to Dale Vince, the founder of green energy company Ecotricity, The Stroud-based businessman said that Ecotricity plans to build its first grass-powered energy plant in Hampshire by the end of this year in a move to eliminate the demand for industrial farming waste. The project, which will cost Ecotricity £15m, is primed to be the first major investment by a UK company into this type of energy. “It is relatively new, we can basically make gas and put it into the gas grid in the same way that we can with electricity from renewables,” Mr Vince said.
Biogas could be used to slash global greenhouse gas emissions by up to 13%. That’s the verdict from the World Biogas Association (WBA), which claims the fuel has a great potential to address a wide range of environmental and economic challenges around the world. It suggests biogas, which is a mixture of gases produced by the breakdown of organic matter in the absence of oxygen, could be used to help cut global greenhouse gas emissions from 3,290 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents to 4,360 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents. This would be achieved by substituting coal, oil and gas in international energy mixes, as well as avoiding emissions through the better management of organic wastes and reducing the need for fossil fertiliser manufacture, crop burning and deforestation. The report highlights that currently, only 2% of available feedstocks undergo anaerobic digestion and are turned into biogas – these wastes include food, sewage, agricultural slurry and leftover crops.
Grass cuttings from verges that have been allowed to grow into wildflower meadows will be cut at the end of summer and sold to the National Grid to create energy in the first scheme of its kind. Lincolnshire County Council is letting its grass verges grow wild over summer in order to encourage pollinators such as butterflies and bees instead of mowing them. At the end of the summer, the grass will be shorn and the long cuttings sent to be used as biofuel. The money made from the scheme will be put back into maintaining the verges for next year. While verges are often ignored, they provide important habitats for wildlife and also have potential to be used for peat-fee compost and green fuel. Mark, the project manager at Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust says “It’s just as if our biggest nature reserve has been hidden in plain sight.
Residents of Bristol could soon be cooking their evening meal using energy produced from poo, thanks to a new partnership announced yesterday between local utility Bristol Energy and anaerobic digestion experts GENeco. GENeco, the company behind the UK’s first bio-bus powered by sewage and liquid organic waste, is now supplying Bristol Energy with biomethane from sewage waste collected from the homes of a million people in the local area. GENeco now treats 75,000,000m3 of sewage waste every year, enough to power more than 8,000 homes with green gas. Customers who sign up to Bristol Energy’s My Green Plus tariff will receive 15 per cent green gas and 100 per cent green electricity, compared to a national average of 0.1 per cent. As well as using sewage to create green gas, GENeco also collects food waste as feedstock. Last October GENeco launched the first vehicle in the UK to both collect and run on commercial food waste. The Bio-Bee truck collects food waste and takes it to GENeco’s anaerobic digestion plant, where the waste is processed to remove any plastic and then turned into low carbon biogas.
A new fleet of buses that run on biomethane have been unveiled by Nottingham City Transport (NCT). The £17m double-decker bus fleet will be powered by a biogas produced by sewage and waste. NCT engineering director, Gary Mason, said: ‘We are hugely proud of our new biogas buses. This is the largest order for gas double decks in the world and is the culmination of our extensive research into alternative fuels. ‘When [biomethane] is used, emissions are 84% lower than their diesel counterparts, thereby making them – from ‘well to wheel’ – the greenest buses on the road.’ The Anaerobic Digestion & Bioresources Association (ADBA) said the Government should provide more support for low-carbon transport fuels such as biomethane. ADBA chief executive, Charlotte Morton, said: ‘Scania’s new Bio-Gas buses are a great example of the effectiveness of biomethane as a low-carbon, low-cost transport fuel that can help to reduce the scandalous levels of air pollution we see in towns and cities across the UK, costing thousands of lives each year.
Barrow Green Gas (BGG) has ‘launched’ biomethane into the UK national gas network for a record 33 biomethane producers – more than any other gas shipper in Great Britain – as new regulatory environmental reporting alongside financial reporting requirements impacts large corporate. Every month more green gas comes available via BGG as new biomethane producers connect to the grid and existing ones produce increasing amounts. Tim Davis, Managing Director, BGG, said: “2016 is the year where we have seen green gas really take off with increasing numbers of producers injecting green gas into the existing gas grid. This year we saw our gas being supplied to some of the UK’s leading renewable energy suppliers, with Good Energy and Green Energy UK offering green gas to customers. We are also supplying CNG Fuels with green gas as a transport fuel that is being used by Waitrose, John Lewis, Argos and Brit European – a great alternative to diesel.” The UK has the fastest growing green gas market in the world and dedicated biomethane shipper, BGG, is the largest shipper of biomethane. In addition, BGG markets green gas certificates (GGCs), the value of which is now considerably increased for companies when reporting their emissions.
The number of anaerobic digestion (AD) plants delivering green gas to the grid has doubled in the past year to almost 90 sites, according to the latest figures from the Anaerobic Digestion and Bioresources Association (ADBA). The industry group’s annual Market Report revealed that in addition to a surge in the number of facilities injecting biomethane into the grid the total number of AD plants in the UK has risen from 424 to 540 in the past year. The group said AD technologies have already reduced UK greenhouse gas emissions by nearly one per cent annually. The investment in new capacity has been achieved despite changes to the Renewable Heat Incentive and wider policy environment, which some within the industry have accused of hampering the expansion of the sector. Charlotte Morton, chief executive of ADBA, said the growth of the sector, in particular in terms of the number of grid connections, demonstrated that “green gas has gone mainstream” over the past two years. “Biomethane [is] now heating around 170,000 homes in the UK without the householder needing to do anything differently themselves,” she said. “Biomethane to grid is a real success story for the Renewable Heat Incentive, and we look forward to the government setting out its plans for the next phase of the support scheme.” The report comes just days after National Grid Gas Distribution announced it has secured £4.8m of funding from Ofgem to support a pilot project designed to boost the use of green gas across the grid. The three-year pilot study aims to update the way gas bills are calculated, to take into account more of the green, lower carbon alternatives to natural gas that are increasingly coming online.
A Spanish small-wind turbine manufacturer has launched a new integrated biogas solution for agricultural, utility and industrial users throughout the UK. Known as the Norvento-BioPlant, the system enables small and medium sized companies and landowners to sustainably manage organic waste and turn it into renewable gas, electricity or both, allowing them to take a step towards energy independence. Norvento’s BioPlant is a medium sized system for the agricultural and landfill waste sectors that will benefit from the Feed-in Tariff (FiT) and Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) sweet spots, which range between 150kWh for electricity and 600kWh for heat.
The grass is always greener than the gas on the other side, according to a British businessman who claims grasslands could provide enough gas to heat all of the UK’s homes. Dale Vince, the chairman of renewable energy company Ecotricity, is investing £10m in the first of a generation of what he calls ‘green gas mills’ that he says could compete against gas from fracking. The company said its Hampshire plant at Sparsholt College, which has planning permission and is slated to be operational in 2018, will take grass harvested from nearby fields and break it down in an anaerobic digester. Grass at the plant would be turned into biomethane within 45 days and then injected into the national network, providing the heating needs of more than 4,000 homes. A report by Ecotricity on Thursday said there are around 6m hectares of suitable grassland in the UK, not including arable land for crops. It argued this would be enough to match the amount of gas the National Grid forecasts homes will consume by 2035, but doing so would require the building of around 5,000 mills akin to the Hampshire one. Vince admitted that getting to that point would be a huge challenge, given no other country had done it before and it was a new approach in the UK. “It would be a massive undertaking but it would be permanent. Grass keeps growing, it doesn’t run out, unlike gas from fracking. Most of the value would be in the hands of farmers who, post-Brexit, may be in need of it,” he told the Guardian. The company is planning four other mills in addition to the one at Sparsholt College – in Somerset, Cambridgeshire, Shropshire, Wiltshire. Ecotricity is lobbying the government to secure subsidies for the plants, via the renewable heat incentive, which currently excludes support for grass.