The production of energy crops for use in biomass power plants or biofuel refineries has long been controversial, with critics arguing that they undermine food production and can often fail to deliver promised greenhouse gas emission reductions. But according to new research from the Energy Technologies Institute (ETI), some second-generation energy crops can help farmers diversify their income while helping to boost the productivity of their land. The studies found that energy crops can complement other farming activities as they can be grown on land which is less suitable for grazing or food production because of poor soil quality or waterlogging.
Yesterday we launched The Green Gas Book.- a series of essays exploring the development of “green gas” (or more accurately, “green gases”), written by experts in the field. This book looks at the range of those green gases – biomethane, hydrogen, bio-substitute natural gas (bioSNG) and biopropane – their uses, benefits and potential challenges in their application. While no one of these green gases is the perfect solution, we may think of them as “10% solutions,” which, together with developments such as district heating schemes, would go a long way towards helping us decarbonise the heat sector. This book was commissioned by Labour’s frontbench energy team and has been produced in co-ordination with the PLP’s energy and climate change committee. We hope that it can serve as an important contribution to policy discussion.
Farmers are leading a backlash against the Government’s latest cut to green energy subsidies, warning it will deprive the struggling agricultural sector of a valuable source of income. In a consultation quietly published late last month, the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) proposed slashing subsidies for anaerobic digestion (AD) plants. Anaerobic digesters take organic materials, such as crops or agricultural waste, and break them down using bacteria to produce “biogas” and fertiliser. The gas can then be burnt to produce electricity, or processed and sold into the mains gas grid. DECC plans to remove subsidies for big new AD plants and cut support for smaller new plants. Farmers’ union the NFU has warned the changes could sound the “death knell” for new biogas on farms. It estimates that farmers own about 200 AD plants, about two-thirds of all such plants in the UK, while up to 1,000 farms may have an interest in AD, for example by supplying them with crops. Dr Jonathan Scurlock, NFU chief adviser on renewable energy said: “We are very worried now. This is bad news for the rural economy, and bad for agricultural efforts to tackle climate change.” He said there was a pipeline of up to 500 further AD plants in the early stages of development but that farmers would struggle to get financing for projects under the proposed cuts.
Wyke Farms, which generates electricity, gas and heat from renewable sources, is a dairy business in southwest England, which exports 14,000 tonnes of cheddar a year to more than 160 countries. It has been building an energy generation and water recycling operation over the past five years to reduce its environmental impact and save money. It’s been able to lower its energy bills by nearly £100,000 per month as a result. Aside from solar panels, Wyke generates electricity and heat from cow dung.
Britain should generate more energy from sewage in order to cut water bills and help save the planet, water regulator Ofwat has said. Enough extra electricity could be generated to power all the homes in Manchester if water companies exploited the underused energy potential of sewage, analysis by one company suggests. Ofwat on Wednesday cited the old adage that “where there’s muck there’s brass” as it unveiled plans to encourage water companies to make greater use of “bioresources”, or treated sewage. Many waste water companies already use anaerobic digestion plants where bacteria breaks down sewage and creates ‘biogas’, which can be fed into the gas grid or burnt to generate low-carbon electricity. Ofwat said it was bringing in changes to “unleash innovation and efficiencies” in the treatment of sewage and that “bill payers could benefit” as a result. Analysis by company Veolia suggests that only half the potential for energy from sewage is currently being exploited. It calculates that the UK generated 846 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of power for sewage in 2015, enough to provide electricity for about 260,000 homes – more than than the size of Manchester. However using more advanced technologies, and increasing the proportion of sludge that is turned into biogas, could more than double this to 1697 GWh per year, it estimates.
Government support of biomethane production in the form of the Renewable Heat Incentive has meant that the number of green gas plants in the UK has risen from just one in 2013 to over 300 now, 60 of which are feeding directly into the grid. The Renewable Energy Association has estimated that green gas could produce as much as a quarter of the UK’s equivalent natural gas imports by 2035. Since the April 1, six per cent of Good Energy’s gas is biomethane – a percentage that will increase as the industry grows.
A new report by the Renewable Energy Association has outlined the potential for Britain to produce the equivalent of more than 45 LNG tankers’ worth of renewable natural gas (in the form of biomethane) per year by 2035. Last year, the UK’s biomethane industry was the fastest growing in the world, and by the end of this year, will produce the equivalent of four LNG tankers worth of gas yearly, which it injects directly into the UK’s natural gas grid. Current levels of biomethane production support the heating and cooking needs of up to 100,000 homes. Biomethane is a renewable gas identical in chemical composition to natural gas, the fossil fuel. There already exists an extensive natural gas transportation and distribution grid in the UK. A total of 50 biomethane projects were completed by the end of 2015, with an additional 15 expected to be completed in 2016.
Construction work has begun on a £32m anaerobic digestion (AD) plant in Dagenham, Essex, which once completed will inject enough green gas into the national grid to power more than 10,000 homes across the region. ReFood – one of the UK’s largest waste recyclers – broke ground on the plant late last week. Once up and running ReFood Dagenham will be able to recycle 160,000 tonnes of food waste every year, generating more than 2,000 metres cubed per hour of methane gas that will be fed directly into the grid. The food waste will be collected across London and the South East.
Most farms have outlying barns and sheds where there’s no mains power. That’s no problem in the daytime, but no fun if you have to rely on a torch after dark. However, Berkshire firm Bright Spark Solar reckons it has the answer with its latest 44-LED solar-powered floodlight. The lithium-ion battery is fully charged after nine hours of bright sunlight, it says, which then gives five nights of light from the low-wattage LED floodlight.
Almost two thirds of biomethane FiT applicants miss out on latest wave of feed-in tariff incentives thanks to funding cap A new cap on deployment of anaerobic digestion (AD) plants under the feed-in tariff (FiT) incentive scheme was hit within 15 minutes of the scheme opening for applications, Ofgem data released on Friday has shown. The 5.8MW cap was reached just quarter of an hour after it opened at midnight on Monday 8th February, meaning around two thirds of projects applying for incentives will miss out on the scheme. With the current cap period lasting until the end of March, those developers who did not submit their application within 15 minutes of the scheme opening will now have to wait until capacity becomes available during the next quarter. They will also face reduced tariffs as a result of missing out on the latest wave of FiT awards, according to industry body the Anaerobic Digestion and Bioresources Association (ADBA).