A MORPETH farm is leading the way in renewable energy after becoming the first in the region to install an anaerobic digestion plant.
And Newcastle University, which manages the state-of-the-art equipment at Cockle Park Farm, is offering workshops for farmers and other rural businesses to find out more about installing their own systems.
Anaerobic digestion (AD) is an emerging renewable technology, which creates biogas and organic fertiliser from farm slurry and food waste.
The aim of the project at Cockle Park is to show how waste from pig, dairy and beef units can be used to produce heat, electricity and fertiliser, and the energy generated at the farm is used to heat the AD tanks to maintain the required operating temperature and heat the pig units.
Newcastle University is also planning to install a Combined Heat and Power unit to export electricity to the grid. The initiative was made possible by funding from the university, as well as almost £860,000 from One North East’s Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE).
RDPE Manager Adrian Sherwood said: “Anaerobic digestion offers considerable potential for farms and rural businesses in the production of energy, as well as for the management of animal manures and other waste.
However, the number of facilities on farms in the UK is limited because this technology is relatively new. As a result there are opportunities for UK farmers to benefit from this technology, which has now been completed in the North East for the first time.
“The up-take of such technologies by a small proportion of land-based businesses would make a valuable contribution towards renewable energy targets in the UK so it is very exciting that the region is at the forefront of this technology.”
The use of AD is expected to increase due to Government financial incentives, such as feed-in tariffs, renewable obligation certificates and an upcoming renewable heat incentive.
And it is forecast that about 200 land-based businesses and 54 food industry groups will take part in the Cockle Park workshops, as well as a further 72 businesses and public sector organisations receiving information to support the growth of the technology.
The day-long workshops consist of presentations on AD technology, issues relating to the construction of an AD plant, including planning and permits, and information about the use of organic fertiliser and biogas, as well as a tour of the farm’s scheme.
Project leader Dr Paul Bilsborrow, of the university’s School of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development, said: “Feedback has indicated how valuable and informative these workshops have been.”
Dates for workshops are available in March and bespoke full-day sessions for parties of 15 to 25 can be offered, as well as shorter courses for smaller groups.
For more information, call Jenny Conn on 01670 791958 or email firstname.lastname@example.org