Welcome to the first in a new series of articles from guest authors on the Shire Journal. This week our guest author is Joe Crosby from Pop Cult Magazine. Read on to see how farmers and homeowners would be well served by utilising their own resources - and becoming owners of their own power stations.
'Renewable electricity, as we generally are told, is usually made by solar panels, hydro generators and, depending on your outlook, noisy/quiet ugly/beautiful wind turbines. Tell friends they can power their homes with a renewable source that comes out the back end of a pig and chances are they will slyly remove any sharp object in your vicinity before sloping off to make a discreet call for hospital services. Yet Aberdeenshire pig farmer Andrew Rennie is doing exactly this: his pigs are powering people\'s homes and have been since 2006.
Pig slurry collected from his and surrounding farms is loaded into an anaerobic digester where, inside, micro-organisms gradually eat through the waste and covert the greenhouse gasses it would ordinarily give off into a biogas. The biogas is subsequently burnt to produce renewable electricity that is bought by green electricity supplier Green Energy UK and fed into the National Grid for its customers. The material left over in the digester has had its greenhouse gases removed by this \'biomass\' process and it is used as environmental compost rich in nutrients. Andrew has invested almost £2 million into the project and expects it to have paid for itself within 10 years.
Hertfordshire tomato farmers Guy and Wright were presented with Grower of the Year's business initiative award for greening up the National Grid by turning tomato waste and other decaying vegetable matter imported to the farm into renewable electricity also bought by Green Energy UK and fed into the National Grid. Each day up to 50 tonnes of this organic waste is chopped up at the nursery and put into six 400-tonne underground anaerobic digesters. Just like Andrew Rennie\'s digester, micro-organisms break down the waste and create a biogas burnt to produce heat for greenhouses, allowing tomatoes to be grown all year round in the UK and make renewable electricity in the process.
According to DECC (the Department of Energy and Climate Change), in 2007 just 1.78% of all the UK\'s collective energy sources came from renewable sources. If you are of the mind that a non-nuclear, fossil-fuel-free, clean, non-polluting, sustainable energy supply that promises future generations long-term energy security would be a nice thing, that 1.78% makes for pretty dismal reading. Especially when you consider Denmark already has 20% of its energy coming from renewables.
However, as more farmers, businesses and homeowners for that matter, become aware of the exciting possibilities and gains to be had by utilising their resources further, becoming owners of their own power stations, it is easy to imagine that figure of 1.78% increasing rapidly. “I can pay for this waste material to be taken away to landfill where it will give off greenhouse gasses, or I can invest in equipment to recycle that waste into renewable electricity, giving me cheap power, and in some cases heat, hot water and extra income by selling the electricity I don\'t use to a company that can put it into the National Grid for others to use?” A no brainer, if you have the means to make it happen, surely.'