Prime Minister David Cameron, has announced that the UK Green Investment Bank plc is investing to help farmers in North Ireland become more sustainable, create jobs and generate income from their waste. The deal was published yesterday in ‘Building a Prosperous and United Community: One Year On’.
Working with its fund manager Foresight Group (Foresight), GIB has announced investment into two projects to construct anaerobic digestion plants on farms in Northern Ireland. These are expected to be the first of several, similar projects in the region.
The projects, in Cookstown, County Tyrone and Banbridge, County Down, will be used by local livestock farmers and have been developed alongside their advisors, KPMG.
Anaerobic digestion is a natural process which takes organic waste and breaks it down. This produces a gas, which is turned into electricity.
This can be used on-site or sold into the national grid. The process also creates digestate, a natural by-product which can be spread on the land as a fertiliser, saving famers money and returning nutrients to the land.
There are environmental benefits to using anaerobic digestion. Firstly, it reduces the carbon footprint of farm operations because the digestate from anaerobic digestion can be used as a substitute fertiliser and because waste left to decompose on the land emits greenhouse gases. Secondly, the more renewable energy is produced, the less reliance there will be on fossil fuels.
The two projects announced will generate enough renewable energy to power 1700 households for a year. The reduction in greenhouse gas production from the projects will be equivalent to taking 2000 cars off the road for a year.
Anaerobic digestion is one of the most promising renewable energy technologies in Northern Ireland, with eight plants currently operational and the potential for this to grow to over 50 in the coming years.
While the UK-wide anaerobic digestion market in general is showing strong growth, the Northern Ireland market in particular is now one of the most attractive locations in Europe for this technology. This is thanks to enhanced government support and a high volume of appropriate waste.
Shaun Kingsbury, Chief Executive, UK Green Investment Bank, said:
“Today’s announcement is a textbook example of the types of project we should be seeing all across the UK. It’s economically important, injecting £6.5m into the rural economy in Northern Ireland and generating 22 new jobs. It’s green, turning farm waste into renewable energy and fertiliser. And it’s good for the local farming community, earning and saving them money.
“Northern Ireland has taken a real lead in this fast-emerging technology, so we were delighted to help get these new projects moving and stand ready to back other community-based, green projects like them across the UK.”
“I am delighted that the Green Investment Bank has invested in these two excellent projects, this is further evidence of the vital role the GIB has to play in building a stronger, greener economy.
“Anaerobic digestion is the unsung hero of the renewables industry; it diverts waste from landfill and generates clean, renewable energy. Given the technology’s flexibility it’s also a great way for farmers to secure additional income from manures and slurries alongside food waste.”
Philip Kent, Senior Investment Manager, Foresight Group, said:
“Foresight is pleased to have worked with GIB, KPMG and Williams Industrial Services to develop a platform for the development of small-scale anaerobic digestion facilities, which we hope will be applied to multiple projects across Northern Ireland over the coming months.
“The Cookstown and Banbridge projects represent excellent examples of farmers working together to deliver fundable propositions and we will be working closely with them as the projects progress through construction, accreditation and operations.”
Pictured is Dan Rogerson, MP Resources Management Minister