A project at a Euston farm which converts crops into gas for the National Grid has gone on stream.
Strutt and Parker (Farms) Ltd set up the bio gas plant at Home Farm which is now able to supply up to 1,000 homes and businesses in the Thetford area with green gas.
The system works by feeding crops such as maize and sugar beet, as well as waste products like manure, into the plant which uses anaerobic digestion to create the methane to gas product. A bi product from the process also creates a natural fertiliser for the soil.
The equivalent of 3,000 acres of maize would be needed each year to provide the fuel but including organic agricultural waste products means a smaller acreage would be needed.
Around 10 local farmers are growing the break crops and therefore improving their crop rotation. They are also supplying other products including manure and sugar beet pulp to the gas generating scheme.
Managing director of Strutt and Parker Farms, Charlie Fillingham, said the renewable project, Biogas Ltd, which took three years from inception, was a good way of generating income for farmers who are currently struggling to meet the cost of growing wheat.
“Farming makes an extremely poor return at the moment especially in this region where the soil is light and yields are below average.
“The price of commodities is below the cost of the production of wheat and this year’s potato prices have been dreadful. Whilst not only producing a significant quantity of renewable energy, the project will provide a great opportunity for farmers in the area to improve their crop rotation by introducting maize and other energy crops.”
“Furthermore, a digestate, which is produced during the process, will also be used as a natural fertiliser and improve the much needed nutrient levels in the light soils of the region,” he added.
Mr Fillingham said that farmers were concerned at the threat to green energy subsidies by the Government.
“We are doing our utmost to meet our renewable energy targets. The bio gas to grid scheme will help us meet these targets without impacting the land too much.”
Dr Jonathan Scurlock, chief adviser on renewable energy and climate change for the National Farmers Union, said: “The NFU strongly endorses farm diversification into renewable energy, for export as well as for self supply, where it supports profitable farming and underpins traditional agricultural production.
The Euston project is at the forefront of 80 schemes around the country that the National Grid aims to connect to its network by 2020. Euston is the third bio gas plant the company has connected in Suffolk.