HRH The Prince of Wales has opened the UK's first commercial scale food waste to biogas anaerobic digestion (AD) facility to inject renewable gas directly into the grid in Dorset.
The facility is owned and operated by J V Energen, a joint venture between local farmers and the Duchy of Cornwall, set up to provide a renewable energy solution for the Duchy's development at Rainbarrow Farm, Poundbury.
Founded in 1337 the Duchy of Cornwall is a crown body principally responsible for managing the land and properties of the eldest son of the reigning monarch - currently Prince Charles.
The plant has already been generating electricity since April 2012, and according to the Duchy over the course of a year will export enough electricity for approximately 500 homes. At maximum capacity it is expected that the plant will provide enough gas for 56,000 new-build homes in the summer and 4000 in the winter.
To clean up the biogas produced by the AD plant and inject the resulting biomethane directly into the gas network, J V Energen contracted Scotia Gas Networks - which runs Southern Gas Networks and is responsible for the local gas distribution network.
Fit for a Prince
The Prince, who takes a keen interest in renewable energy, has been consulted at every stage of the project. His Royal Highness was taken on a tour of the plant, met the people behind the project and also unveiled a plaque to mark the occasion.
said: "As far as I am concerned it is a very exciting and encouraging day. I have been badgering the Duchy and others over the years to find a way of kick-starting the anaerobic digestion sector in this country.
"As we have quite a lot of people here from the Continent, you may well realise that in the Netherlands and Germany they are much further ahead on this front.
"I am particularly pleased and proud that we have been able today to launch this remarkable engineering feat of the first gas-to-grid operation."
The Duchy explained that it started looking at sustainable energy solutions for Poundbury in 2008 and work began work on the AD plant in June 2011.
The facility will use approximately 41,000 tonnes of food waste, maize and grass silage each year, which will be sourced from local farms and businesses, including Dorset Cereals and the House of Dorchester Chocolate Factory.
The Duchy claimed that in addition to providing an environmentally friendly waste disposal option and reducing levels of waste being sent to landfill, the plant produces a net carbon saving of around 4435 tonnes of CO2 equivalent emissions a year.
"The UK's first successful commercial-scale gas-to-grid plant is an exciting development, demonstrating the ability of the AD industry to deliver large volumes of green gas into the grid for use today," commented Charlotte Morton, chief executive of the Anaerobic Digestion and Biogas Association (ADBA).
According to Morton AD has the potential to generate £2 to 3 billion worth of green gas - equivalent to more than 10% of the UK's domestic gas demand - and support 35,000 jobs.
"The Poundbury plant demonstrates that biomethane to grid technology works at commercial scale now. With ten more plants scheduled to come online in the next 12 months, biomethane from AD should be recognised as the serious commercial energy proposition that it is," she added.
David Smith, chief executive of Energy Networks Association, representing the UK electricity and gas transmissions and distribution networks said that the facility represents a positive step towards greater use of green gas. "ENA, Scotia Gas Networks and the rest of our members support the use of biomethane injection but it is essential that barriers faced in many projects like Poundbury across the country are removed," explained Smith.