‘Grass to gas’ AD plant planned for Hampshire college

Sparsholt College has teamed up with energy supplier Ecotricity to build a Green Gas Mill which will convert locally-harvested grass into carbon-neutral biomethane.

Described as an “alternative to fracking”, the on-campus anaerobic digestion (AD) plant will turn grass from the surrounding, lower-quality arable farmland into biogas to supply both the College and the National Grid.

The project will also enable a new gas connection that will allow local residents to get cheaper ‘mains gas’ for the first time. It is expected to produce power for the equivalent of nearly 5,000 homes per year.

Positive impact

Ecotricity founder Dale Vince said: “We introduced the concept of making gas from grass in April, and the Sparsholt Green Gas Mill will be one of the first four we’ll be putting into planning this year.

“It’s a very exciting new concept – green gas is carbon-neutral, it supports food production, it’s sustainable, and it actually benefits wildlife and the local environment, creating new habitats.”

The Mill will form part of Sparsholt College’s Centre of Excellence and will be used to train more specialists for this rapidly-growing sector. The college is developing its status as a ‘Centre for Demonstration of Environmental Technologies’, which is being supported by Ecotricity and through a grant from the Enterprise M3 Local Enterprise Partnership.

College principal Tim Jackson said: “We’re already significantly expanding our rooftop solar panel array, we’ve submitted a planning application for a wind turbine; we are intending to expand our wood fuel technologies – and we’re now putting ourselves at the centre of what is the future of gas generation in Britain. 

“The Centre of Excellence will be a key resource to develop specialist professionals to work for the green gas industry, training engineers, plant managers and technicians in what is a jobs growth area across the agriculture, energy, waste, water and food processing sectors.”

Fracking fight

Biomethane capacity in the UK has grown to a level that means it should now be seen as a ‘serious contender‘ to the renewable energy market, according to the Renewable Energy Association (REA).

But the UK Government seemingly has its sights set on fracking as an alternative energy source. Earlier this week, the Tories offered up 27 fracking blocks around the UK to energy companies, despite public support for fracking dropping to an all-time low. Greenpeace head of UK energy and climate Daisy Sands described the news as “the starting gun for the fight for the future our countryside”.

Ecotricity has previously criticised Prime Minister David Cameron over a series of “green policy U-turns”.

Matt Mace

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