UK energy firm Ecotricity has unveiled plans to provide the UK with a source of renewable green gas by harvesting methane from grass via anaerobic digestion.
Using marginal arable farmland around the country, Ecotricity says it could produce biogas for 97 per cent of UK homes, creating up to 150,000 new jobs in the process. However, expanding to this level would involve building around 5,000 grass mills to convert the feed material, scrub the methane, and pump the resulting gas into the grid. In October, Ecotricity received permission to build its first grass mill, located at Sparsholt College in Hampshire.
“Our first Green Gas Mill has just been given the go-ahead, and we hope to build it soon – though that does depend on whether government energy policy will support this simple, benign and abundant energy source,” said Dale Vince, founder of Ecotricity.
“Through our research, we’ve found that using grass is a better alternative, and has none of the drawbacks of energy crops, food waste or fracking – in fact, it has no drawbacks at all.”
Anaerobic digestion allows micro-organisms to break down the grass in an oxygen-free environment. The outputs of the process are methane, as well as a natural fertiliser which can be returned to farmers’ fields. CO2 is then scrubbed from the bio-methane, and the end-product can be pumped directly into the national gas grid.
According to a new report from Ecotricity, switching to green gas could add £7.5bn annually to the UK economy, and presents an alternative approach to fracking. Unlike fracking, it would provide a sustainable source of gas, although the initial investment in the infrastructure would be significant. But Ecotricity claims the benefits from green gas would be manifold, including reducing carbon emissions, boosting energy independence, improving soil quality and creating wildlife habitats. Vince also believes the green gas could help provide support for farmers set to lose EU subsidies following Brexit.
“As our report shows, the benefits of Britain making its gas this way are astounding,” he said. “And in the light of this new option available to us, I call on Theresa May to review the government’s plan for where Britain gets its gas post-North Sea.”
“We now have a more than viable alternative to fracking, which people have been fighting tooth and nail up and down the country to prevent. It’s not too late, because fracking hasn’t started yet. We need a proper review of where Britain gets its gas from – we can either frack the countryside or we can grow the grass. It’s that simple.”