The launch of East Anglia’s biggest gas-to-grid crop anaerobic digestion (AD) plant based in Beccles, Suffolk, has created a major opportunity for local farmers to diversify their income streams.
The five megawatt Ellough AD plant, which is owned by agricultural finance specialists Privilege Finance and operated by AD management experts BioCow, runs on 80,000 tonnes of crops per annum.
“The digester receives a range of different feedstocks such as maize, rye and sugar beet, all from approximately 40 farms in the local area,” explains Gerry Keegan, project finance manager at Privilege Finance.
“The plant is performing really well. In addition to the biogas used for energy on-site, it is currently generating in excess of 1,000 cubic metres of biomethane per hour, which is supplied to National Grid Gas Distribution.”
Ian Hall, farms 1,600 acres of arable land and is one of the main feedstock suppliers to Ellough AD.
“We used to grow predominantly wheat, oilseed rape, beans and barley, but the AD plant has opened up a new market for growing a wider variety of crops,” explains Mr Hall.
“This opportunity allows us to grow crops at a known market value. We’re not as susceptible to world trends and market fluctuations, as we know what we’ll get ‘per tonne’ from the plant.”
“There are wider benefits too. Being able to expand the range of crops we grow has improved our rotations and, in turn, given us more flexibility.”
Mr Hall also receives digestate, a nutrient-rich fertiliser, produced from Ellough AD, which he uses back on the farm land.
“The liquid digestate supplies useful amounts of nitrogen, phosphate, potash and sulphur, along with all-important trace elements, at a fraction of the cost of artificial fertilisers,” Mr Hall explains.
The official opening of Ellough AD on 19 October attracted over 60 visitors from the renewables, engineering and farming industries, together with local dignitaries and Local Authority representatives who came together to celebrate its success and take part in a full tour of the plant.