Nick Herbert visits anaerobic digester

Arundel & South Downs MP Nick Herbert visited a farm near Kirdford on Friday (26 March) to see the UK’s largest on-farm anaerobic digester.


The Shadow Environment Secretary was given a tour of Crouchlands Farm by dairy farmer and new NFU vice president Gwyn Jones, accompanied by the NFU's head of policy services Andrew Clark.

The digester makes use of waste from the dairy unit, which is home to 750 Holstein dairy cows, including manure and straw bedding.  It also uses poorer cuts of grass silage from the farm and maize grown on 300 acres of land which is otherwise only suitable for wintering cattle.

It works by composting the farm's waste in the absence of oxygen.  After 20 to 60 days a biogas is produced that can be used to generate electricity and heat.  It also produces a solid and liquid residue - known as ‘digestate' - which can be used as soil conditioner or fertiliser.

The £2 million plant will generate 1 megawatt of power every hour and feed this electricity into the National Grid.  There is also enough heat to warm a 20 or 30-acre glasshouse or 600-700 houses in the local village.

During his visit, Mr Herbert discussed a number of issues including food and energy security, the burden of regulation on agriculture, and the outlook for the dairy industry.

Gwyn Jones said: "We were very pleased to have the opportunity to give Nick a tour of the farm and to show off our new anaerobic digester.  It was also a chance to speak to Nick at this crucial stage for agriculture.  We had a productive discussion about how farming can be at the centre of solutions. 

"We were really putting forward the case that agriculture can provide solutions to society in terms of food security and energy security.  The NFU has also put forward ideas for ways in which the costs of government can be reduced in the future through the eradication of duplication within government agencies and quangos."

Nick Herbert commented: "It was great to visit Gwyn's farm on Friday and to take a look at his new anaerobic digester.  It's an impressive project which demonstrates the potential of viewing waste as a resource rather than a problem.

"There are more than 2,500 AD plants in Germany, but we still have fewer than 30 in the UK because we've been too slow to exploit the new technology.  Generating more energy from renewable sources will be good for our energy security as well as the environment."



Notes for Editors

1. In January 2009, the Conservative Party published the Low Carbon Economy paper. This showed how biogas produced from farm and food wastes would replace up to half of residential gas heating by changing the regulatory regime for the gas grid and introducing ‘feed-in tariffs'.

2. On 19 March 2010, the Conservative Party published a Green Paper on Energy Policy that set out plans for the biggest overhaul of British energy policy in a generation. You can read the paper here:

Alexander Black