Chickens light up ancient town

The planning application for the Moy Park Incinerator makes much play of the claim that it is the only viable solution to the problem of chicken litter disposal. Well, the people of Cirencester know different.

A new biogas power station showcases how towns will be powered by locally produced energy

A new biogas power station showcases how future cities will be powered by locally produced energy.

The future of power is being pioneered near the English town of Cirencester where a biogas power station is being built. Powered by agricultural biomass, including chicken litter and pig manure, residents will benefit from this low cost alternative to oil, coal and foreign gas.

Cirencester is one of the first towns in the world to benefit from energy derived from chicken litter and leads the way to a greener future. This sustainable technology allows production of local power, called ‘distributed energy.’ This type of energy production reduces reliance on fossil fuels, fuel imports and international pressures. Additionally, the capture of methane from waste reduces the smells normally generated by farms.

As well as energy security, this technology brings low cost heat, electricity and new jobs to Cirencester.

Biogas Fermenters

Fed by local farms that deliver animal waste, as well as corn, wheat and grass, the power plant is located just south of Cirencester. This feedstock is turned into biogas in an anaerobic digester. Looking like a giant cup cake, the plant will produce 1 megawatt hours of energy, enough to supply 350 houses with electricity.

Keep the value local

Operation of a biogas plant in conjunction with a farm makes a great deal of socio-economic sense. The farmer makes money off his waste, reduces cost and limits income volatility. Adopted widely, more jobs will be created in the economy and the cost of food production becomes lower and more stable.

The farmers who erected the biogas plant will have the benefit of free heat for animals, grain drying and housing which was previously a significant expense. But there are other benefits from the biogas process that reduce costs for the farmer. The biogas plant extracts the smell out of waste and burns it in a combined heat and power (CHP) plant after which the leftovers can be used for farming. This ‘digestate’ is a powerful fertiliser that decreases the average fertiliser costs by up to 100% which is a major cost to farmers and the environment. Normal fertiliser production use large amounts of fossil fuel, emit significant quantities of CO2 and the finished product is transported over great distances to farmers. Whereas the fertiliser is produced locally at the power plant, there is no necessity in importing it from the US.

World leading cogeneration units

Alfagy was chosen as the main supplier after a competition against leading manufacturers such as GE Energy, Jenbacher, MWM and MAN. “As the UK is 30 years behind continental Europe in energy efficiency, we wanted a project in Britain. We have many installations in Europe but this is our first biogas installation in the UK.” said Peter Kindt, the managing director of Alfagy. “We believe this is a model for the future of local power generation”.

What makes this project exciting is that farmers deliver energy to the urban environment. Alfagy’s solution was superior both in terms of technology, efficiency and design. Recently, a German test institute, TÜV Rheinland Group, verified that Alfagy’s biogas CHP performed at 42.9% electrical efficiency for its 260 kWe unit – a new world best,” adds Peter Kindt.

The plant is expected to deliver heat and electricity to homes by November 2010.

Other farmers worldwide are now considering similar projects.

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