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The rapid growth of the renewables industry has been of great advantage to farmers United Kingdom wide.

Making sense of it all, however, can be difficult with policy changes, planning permissions and the question of profitability. Alistair Fell, Renewables Specialist from H&H Land and Property highlights two renewable energy opportunities that are becoming increasingly popular: Anaerobic Digestion and Biomass. Anaerobic digestion and Biomass are now leading contenders in the bid to reduce on farm costs and make the most of the resources we have at hand to produce energy or heat. “We are currently involved in several large scale Anaerobic Digestion (AD) projects and the installation of plants, from 500kW up to 2MW using both maize silage and commercial waste. However the area where we have seen the most growth is in small scale AD, generally looking at between 50kW and 250kW plants. As an example, one of our clients is investing in an 80kW AD plant. This will be fed with the slurry from his 300 dairy herd and 30 hectares of grass silage.”

The plant will cost in the region of £600,000 and should see a simple payback from FIT income alone of approximately 6.5 years. Excess heat produced by the plant will be utilised which earns RHI payments and will reduce the payback period further. One possibility is to dry the solid digestate by-product that is produced and use this as bedding for cattle which will further reduce costs. The liquid part of the digestate byproduct can alternatively be used as a fertiliser. “We are seeing a surge of dairy farmers coming to us for advice on small scale AD plants, the return on investment is very attractive and our approach is to scale the plant so that it utilises the feedstocks you have on farm without having to find massive amounts of silage from the farm. The aim is to improve your farming operation not change it completely”. Alistair is also finding a large amount of people are seeking advice on Biomass heating as an alternative to oil; “We are installing a number of district heating schemes on the estates we manage, typically heating 5 to 10 properties on the estate from a central boiler, fuelled by the woodland on the estate. These installations cost from between £100,000 and £200,000 and through the RHI scheme stand to pay for themselves within 6 years.”

There can be a number of issues when considering biomass including storage of chip, sizing the boiler to adequately cope with the heat demand of the buildings, complying with building regulations and in the case of lots of estate buildings Listed Building consents. “Biomass boilers are a fantastic solution to heat the farm house and outbuildings, dairyman’s houses, holiday cottages etc and the same good returns on investment are achievable at lower capital cost: between £6,000 and £30,000. There are a lot of things to consider which aren’t immediately obvious so we recommend getting professional advice at an early stage”. H&H Land and Property advise on all aspects of Anaerobic Digestion from assessment of feedstocks, plant design, grid connection, Environment Agency application and gaining planning permission. Their work with Biomass boilers extends from the very first enquiries through to overseeing the installation and Renewable Heating Incentive registration. For more information, contact H&H Land and Property’s renewables team on 01228 406 260.