Prince Charles flicks switch on UK's 'first' biogas to grid plant

The country’s “first” commercial-scale biomethane plant connected directly to the grid was opened by The Prince of Wales yesterday.

The 5MW anaerobic digestor should be capable of supplying renewable gas to 56,000 new-build homes when at maximum capacity in the summer with output falling by around 4,000 homes in the winter.

The plant, which has been generating electricity for 500 homes since April sits on Duchy of Cornwall land just outside Poundbury, the urban extension to the Dorset county town of Dorchester which was built to The Prince of Wales’s architectural principles

It is owned and run by J V Energen, a joint venture between the Duchy of Cornwall and local farmers, which along with some nearby businesses will supply approximately 41,000 tonnes of maize, grass silage, manure, and food waste to be processed each year.

This feedstock is turned into electricity, biogas, and a digestate that can be used as an organic fertiliser on arable crops, resulting in a net carbon saving of around 4,435 tonnes of CO2 equivalent emissions a year.

Biogas is hailed by proponents as offering a secure and renewable alternative to natural gas that could meet 10 per cent of the UK’s gas demand while helping achieve its climate targets. However, developers have warned the current incentives available are not sufficient to deliver widespread deployment of the technology.

Charlotte Morton, chief executive of the Anaerobic Digestion and Biogas Association (ADBA), said the new plant underlined the industry’s ability to deliver large volumes of green gas into the grid.

“The Poundbury plant demonstrates that biomethane to grid technology works at commercial scale now,” she said. “With 10 more plants scheduled to come online in the next 12 months, biomethane from AD should be recognised as the serious commercial energy proposition that it is.”

This is not the Prince’s first foray into bioenergy - the Duchy of Cornwall is one of several investors backing Tamar Energy, which aims to build a string of 40 anaerobic digestion plants across the country by 2017.

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