A green energy project set to turn grass and silage into power for a chemical plant will be a boost to North East agriculture.
Hallwick Energy has started building a one megawatt (1MW) anaerobic digester (AD) in Consett, County Durham.
Thousands of tonnes of grass, whole crop silage and maize will be bought from farmers in the region for the plant, which will provide energy for the base of Thomas Swan & Co Ltd, a leading chemicals and nanotechnology company, which neighbours the site.
The plant, which is one of around 140 in the UK, will also be able to power some homes but is being built to offset the use of fossil fuels at the chemical plant.
The anaerobic digester will work by using microbes to break down the organic materials to transform them into a biogas which will be used to heat the chemical plant.
Though the AD machine works, just off Leadgate Road, will only need a handful of people to operate, dozens of people will be employed during the construction phase. Building is expected to be complete by the end of the year.
Ben Donaldson, national sales manager with MT-Energie UK said: “Essentially, local farmers will be growing crops which will be fed into the digestion process. It will make gas which will power a big engine and we will feed that energy into Thomas & Swan.”
He added that the site would benefit the agricultural industry of the region.
“The growing of crops will be local,” he said. “Where plants like this have been built, there has been a significant benefit to employment in the agriculture industry in the area.”
Harry Swan, managing director of Thomas Swan, said: “Thomas Swan Ltd has always been committed in the search for more sustainable energy generation and reduction of waste.
“Through this plant we will be able to integrate our existing energy needs with a clean source which will reduce the environmental impact of our activity.
“Thanks to this project we will also be less susceptible to ever rising energy prices, reducing overheads and securing our business.”