24 August 2015

Hampshire college plans AD plant to convert grass to gas

Energy supplier Ecotricity has teamed up with Sparsholt College to build a green gas mill.  The mill will convert locally harvested grass into carbon-neutral biomethane.  Grass from surrounding arable farmland will be converted into biogas to supply both the College and the National Grid and the process is described as an “alternative to fracking”.  The on-campus anaerobic digestion (AD) plant will also enable a new gas connection that will allow the local residents to get cheaper mains gas for the first time and is expected to produce power for the equivalent of nearly 5,000 homes per year.

The founder of Ecotricity Dale Vince said that the company introduced the concept of making gas from grass in April and the Sparsholt green gas mill will be one of the first four put into planning this year.  He stated that it was a very exciting new concept as green gas is carbon-neutral, supports food production, is sustainable and it actually benefits wildlife and the local environment by creating new habitats.

The mill will form part of Sparsholt College’s Centre of Excellence and will be used to train more specialists for this rapidly-growing sector. The college is developing its status as a ‘Centre for Demonstration of Environmental Technologies’, which is being supported by Ecotricity and through a grant from the Enterprise M3 Local Enterprise Partnership. Ecotricity has previously criticised Prime Minister David Cameron over a series of “green policy U-turns”.

Sparsholt College principal Tim Jackson said that the college is already significantly expanding its’ rooftop solar panel array and has submitted a planning application for a wind turbine.  The college is intent on expanding its’ wood fuel technologies and is now putting itself at the centre of what is the future of gas generation in Britain.  The Sparsholt college's Centre of Excellence will be a key resource to develop specialist professionals to work for the green gas industry, training engineers, plant managers and technicians in what is a jobs growth area across the agriculture, energy, waste, water and food processing sectors.

The Renewable Energy Association (REA) says that biomethane capacity in the UK has grown to a level that it should now be seen as a serious contender to the renewable energy market.  The UK Government however seems to have its’ sights set on fracking as an alternative energy source. Earlier this week 27 fracking blocks around the UK were offered to energy companies, despite public support for fracking dropping to an all-time low. Daisy Sands, head of UK energy and climate at Greenpeace described the news as “the starting gun for the fight for the future our countryside”.