ONE of Teesside’s most high profile environmental campaigners has announced a major new venture after stepping down from his previous role.
John Barton, director of green energy body Renew, is heading up Anaerobic Energy Ltd (AEL) from a base at Wilton, a new waste-to-energy scheme that aims to build 30 manufacturing plants in ten years, creating dozens of jobs.
The venture will convert left-over food, slurry and grass cuttings into electricity and fertiliser, cutting emissions and reducing the amount of waste going to landfill.
Mr Barton is seeking £500,000-£750,000 of working capital and will need additional funding to get the plants up and running. The first one is expected to be operational next year.
The 30 plants will use advanced anaerobic digestion (AD) technology and will be spread all over the UK.
However Mr Barton said Teesside would be a possible base for such a scheme because it already had a ready-made AD supply chain.
He said: “There’s a lot of municipal waste in the area. We have a good supply of farms and a number of food factories.
“AD is one of the few technologies that allows farmers to get value from their waste.”
The Government has recognised the value of AD as it attempts to create a low carbon economy in Britain.
The technology was backed by top Defra minister Lord Henley when he visited Teesside last year.
Other countries have stolen a march on the UK in AD development, though.
Germany has more than 1,000 AD plants in operation while Britain has less than 100.
However, green chiefs on Teesside have launched schemes that could rapidly scale up commercialisation of the technology.
Wilton-based Earthly Energy is spearheading a £6m AD scheme that will produce enough electricity to power 11,000 homes.
Meanwhile the recently launched Anaerobic Digestion Development Centre (ADDC), also at Wilton, will convert organic waste into power and allow firms to test new technologies before making costly investments in new facilities.
Last month AD development on Teesside received another boost when Air Products announced it was seeking potential partners for a major green energy scheme near Billingham.
If it gets the go-ahead from planners, a new manufacturing plant will convert household and commercial waste into enough renewable electricity to power 50,000 North-east homes - creating hundreds of jobs.