Anaerobic digestors could end blight of North East wind farms say campaigners

Janet Street Porter backed the idea of using bacteria to generate electricity rather than controversial wind farms

Janet Street Porter at the new Anaerobic Digestion plant on Newton Aycliffe Industrial Estate
Janet Street Porter at the new Anaerobic Digestion plant on Newton Aycliffe Industrial Estate

Campaigners claim anaerobic digestors could be the key to saving the North East countryside from the “blight” of wind farms.

As millions of microbes approach their maximum output at the region’s first “from food” plant in County Durham, it’s been suggested the £8m development could be just the start.

Opening the plant, Janet Street-Porter said the potential for a consistent source of energy, without the need to necessarily build on the countryside, made the technology’s potential obvious.

“Anaerobic digestion is a great way of energy generation because we don’t want any more wind turbines in this beautiful area,” the 67-year-old broadcaster said.

“And using food waste means it doesn’t go to landfill. If we’re going to need more energy then obviously this seems a great way of doing it.”

Run by Emerald Biogas, the £8m power plant at Newton Aycliffe Industrial Estate in County Durham, which has been built with the aid of a £2m grant from the government, will process 50,000 tonnes of leftover food from businesses across the region, including Vale of Mowbray, Greencore and SK Chilled Foods. But bosses at the firm believe the benefits of using bacteria to create electricity and other useful products by breaking down food waste will quickly become clear to others in the region – and that we’ll soon see similar sites springing up across the North East.

“I think it will be something we’re going to see more often,” said Emerald director Antony Warren.

“A lot of local authorities have already looked to energy from waste through incinerators, but for food waste anaerobic digestion is a better way of dealing with it.

“Burning leaves you with ash, but what we do is as well as produce electricity, produce a liquid fertiliser which can be used to grow more crops, for food, and the cycle starts again.

“We also have a local use for the heat we produce. Because we’re on an industrial estate we can transfer that heat to neighbouring companies, saving them money.”

Each year in the North East homes and businesses produce around 800,000 tonnes of food waste, with much of it potentially suitable for anaerobic digestion.

The new plant will digest 50,000 tonnes of that, and create electricity equivalent to the needs of 2,000 homes – but the potential could be for 15 times that number to one day be powered by the food we throw away.

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