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Prince Charles opens renewable energy plant

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Prince Charles opens renewable energy plant - Rainbarrow Farm

A long champion of sustainable energy projects, Prince Charles recently opened the first commercial scale Anaerobic Digester and Biomethane-to-Grid plant in the UK.

Located on Duchy of Cornwall land, the construction of the plant at Rainbarrow Farm, Poundbury was initiated in 2011 with the aim of providing sustainable energy to the area. The site is owned and run by J V Energen and is a joint venture between local farmers and the Duchy of Cornwall.

Prince Charles took a keen interest in the development and was consulted at every stage – speaking at the opening of the plant, The Prince of Wales said:

“I must say it is an exciting and encouraging day because I’ve been rather badgering the Duchy and others over the years that we needed to find a way of kick starting the Anaerobic Digestion sector in this country.

“Of course as we have quite a lot of you here today from the continent you no doubt realize that in Germany and the Netherlands and elsewhere they seem to have got much further ahead on this front. So I’m particularly pleased and proud that we’ve been able to launch this remarkable engineering feat, of the first gas-to-grid operation, which I thought was just in the UK, but I’ve been reliably informed that in fact it’s the first almost anywhere, which is another very encouraging part of this.

Prince Charles opens renewable energy plant - Rainbarrow Farm

“What I really wanted to do today, above all else, was to thank so many of you here who’ve been playing such a very important part in ensuring that this project could actually get off the ground. I know so many have worked tirelessly, the Duchy of Cornwall team, who have been remarkable, J V Energen, all the farmers in the area who saw the point and got together on this exercise, Scotia Gas Networks, all the local businesses and tradesmen, the builders, electricians, engineering companies, all of whom have played such an important part.

“If I may say so, I’m particularly pleased that we have the local community and local businesses involved. Two Poundbury-based businesses, Dorset Cereals and House of Dorchester Chocolate Factory, I’ve just seen somebody bearing buckets of their chocolate as I walked into the tent, are supplying us with waste – slightly worrying how much there is of it for use in the AD plant. As does Express Potatoes from Weymouth, and I’m told that potatoes are particularly useful for the plant. So we hope more waste will follow from other sources in due course.

Prince Charles opens renewable energy plant - Rainbarrow Farm

This seems to me to be of enormous importance because all this will make such a huge difference reducing the levels of waste sent to landfill, something I’ve never been able to stand over the years. And the plant will produce a net carbon saving of around 4,435 tonnes of CO2 equivalent emissions every year.

“Of course the great thing about the whole AD process and one of the reasons I have been so enthusiastic about it is that it is a completely virtuous circle – so you end up with a digestate (a fertiliser) at the end of the process. When we were first looking at Poundbury 25 years ago I remember wanting to try and see if we could, then, start something like this related to human sewage, but I’m afraid I was 25 years too early. So I’m thrilled this is another element that is being looked at properly now in this country, as far as the immense potential there is for fulfilling quite a large proportion of this country’s energy needs.

“I am pleased that this has all finally been possible here and that we are now feeding gas into the grid with Scotia Gas Networks. I am looking forward to the fact that it will help provide so many households with energy and heat in the years to come. Thank you, all of you, for the enormously important role you’ve played in this new operation.”

Prince Charles opens renewable energy plant - Rainbarrow Farm

It is projected that at maximum capacity the plant will provide enough renewable gas for 56,000 new-build homes in the summer and 4,000 in the winter.

Anaerobic Digestion is a natural process where, in the absence of oxygen, organic material is broken down by bacteria to produce biogas which is rich in methane.

The Anaerobic Digester at Rainbarrow Farm will produce biogas from approximately 41,000 tonnes of maize, grass silage and food waste each year – all sourced from local farms and businesses. In addition to providing an environmentally friendly waste disposal option, the plant also produces a net carbon saving of around 4,435 tonnes of Carbon Dioxide equivalent emissions a year.

The project was undertaken in two phases, phase one saw German company Agraferm developing the Digester, which was completed in February 2012. Phase two involved Scotia Gas Networks treating the raw biogas to produce biomethane – followed by the injection of this gas into the local network.

Talking on the benefits of Anaerobic Digestion, Scotia Gas Networks Chief Executive Officer, John Morea said:

“Greening the gas, by connecting distributed sources of renewable gas to our network as we are in Poundbury, is at the heart of our long-term vision of an enduring and sustainable gas network. It’s a key part of our strategy and also central of decarbonising the UK’s heat supplies.”

Local farmer and member of J V Energen, Nick Finding, said:

“Growing maize for the Anaerobic Digestion plant means we can produce much more energy per acre and we no longer have to send crops abroad to convert into biodiesel. Growing energy crops is an important additional income stream for local farmers like me.”

Fellow Dorset farmer Howard Mason added:

“We know the digestate is full of nutrients and we’re excited to learn how it improves our soils and increases the yields from land producing food.”

Since April 2012 the plant has been supplying electricity and the operation of the plant will continue to support local businesses including groundwork operators, builders, electricians, pump specialists, fencing contractors, engineering companies and suppliers of seeds and feedstock coverings

 Milbank Concrete Products

Founded in 1947 by Geoffrey Milbank, Milbank Concrete Products specialises in the design and manufacture of high quality precast concrete products.

The company works with a wide range of industries from construction to agriculture and has successfully forged its position as one of the UK’s leading manufacturers of precast concrete.

Most recently Milbank was appointed to manufacture and install the concrete panels for the main silage clamp at Rainbarrow Farm, which comprised three bays, each approximately  100 metres in length.

When asked about the work at Rainbarrow, a spokesperson who managed the project for Milbank said:

“Our work at Rainbarrow Farm was an opportunity to work on a highly prestigious and innovative project; it was also the springboard to our very successful partnership with Bock GmbH to become a UK specialist in silage clamp manufacture”.

“Bock UK was launched twelve months ago combining the expertise and experience of Bock Germany and the manufacturing capability of Milbank and has seen unprecedented demand from the UK farming community”.

“Milbank and Bock UK aim to be industry leaders in high service levels and customer support. The quality of our products is without question, but our customers also know they can rely on high service levels, experienced staff and attention to detail from specification right through to delivery and installation”.

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