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Anaerobic digesters on farms could help end UK's energy crisis

Anaerobic digesters on farms could help end UK’s energy crisis

A dairy farmer has called on the government to make  it easier for farmers to use cow slurry as a renewable energy source.

Norfolk milk producer Stephen Temple wants the government to tap into biogas, saying it is a major unused energy source. His own anaerobic digester has been turning slurry into energy for a number of years.

The AD plant uses  slurry from the farm’s dairy herd, plus maize, low quality silage and whey from the on-farm cheese-making business. About 25% of the energy generated is used on the own farm with the rest exportsed to the national grid.

Like other farmers who supply milk to dairy company Arla, Mr Temple views the untapped potential of biogas as a potential way to help end the UK energy crisis. Arla says the plan could also support the UK’s energy independence.

Clean energy

Mr Temple said:  “Cow slurry has the potential to power communities across the UK and be used as a natural fertiliser to nourish the land we farm. Unfortunately installation of an anaerobic digestor to make this happen is not cheap.

“We’re hoping that with the government’s help we can resolve the difficulties farmers face with grid connections, costly installations, and regulatory and planning issues so we can better utilise this invaluable energy source.”

Last month, Arla helped erect a replica Victorian sewer lamp near Parliament Square to draw attention to the untapped potential of biogas as a renewable energy source derived from livestock slurry and food waste.

It came after the government announced a major new strategy to deliver energy security and net zero. Arla said slurry was an often overlooked source of clean energy – and a new plan could harness its potential to power UK homes and businesses.

Energy strategy

Biogas was once a staple of Victorian Britain after Birmingham engineer Joseph Edmund Webb patented a sewer gas destructor lamp fuelled by emissions from London’s sewers. Arla said farm and food waste could do the same job.

It wants a new national anaerobic digestion strategy incorporating larger community-based facilities generating biogases that can be fed into the gas grid. It is also championing better grid connections to help more farmers install AD plants.

Arla vice president James Pirie said: “Dairy farmers have the potential to play a major role in the future of the UK’s energy security, using natural resources to provide more energy independence.”

Mr Pirie said Britain’s livestock sector had the potential to turn nearly 91 million tonnes of manure and slurry and 10 million tonnes of food waste into 8 billion cubic metres of biomethane – enough to power 6.4 million homes.