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VIP launch of Anaerobic Digester

Posted 12 January 2012

as a centre of excellence, Harper Adams certainly stands out."

Watch the video on our YouTube channel.

Dr David Llewellyn, Lord Taylor of Holbeach and Harper Adams Estates Manager Paul Moran

Harper Adams University College this morning welcomed friends and project partners, including guest of honour Lord Taylor of Holbeach, to the official opening of its “green energy” anaerobic digestion plant. 

Welcoming the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) back to Harper Adams, Principal Dr David Llewellyn said: “We are particularly pleased that Lord Taylor has agreed to conduct the opening ceremony, not only because he has responsibility within DEFRA for the green economy, waste management and climate change mitigation and adaptation, but also because of his keen interest in the use of science to support developments in the agri-food chain.”

Before officially opening the AD plant, Lord Taylor of Holbeach congratulated Dr Llewellyn and the team at Harper Adams for their success in the AD venture and said that despite having never gone to university himself, he saw Harper Adams as “a home to much of what I have aspired to do” and a “cradle of inspiration” for himself and for students, researchers and the wider agri-food community. 

“It shows what we are capable of achieving here in this country in terms of our capacity in agriculture and horticulture and also in the use of science to achieve progress and increase productivity.”

Lord Taylor had previously visited Harper Adams in 2010 while preparing his review of agricultural research and development, presented in the report “Science for a new age of agriculture” (commissioned by the Conservatives, then in opposition).

He said today that he was pleased his report had been taken on by Defra, and that he would now take it forward. “One of the things I have learned,” he added, “is that the resources of Defra are limited; we are living in an era of slimmed down Government, which is a challenge. But one thing we, in Government, need to do is to lever those centres of excellence that we can exploit for the greater good of the country. And as a centre of excellence, Harper Adams certainly stands out.

“This particular project combines my responsibilities for waste management, the green economy and sustainable development, and I hope it does inspire lots of similar models elsewhere. We produce enormous quantities of feed stock…what better way to work towards a zero waste economy than by using anaerobic digestion to produce energy.”

Dr Llewellyn added: “The AD system is an example of how Harper Adams is making things happen – and we are extremely pleased with the early results.  This was one of only three transformational projects to have been commissioned as part of the university sector‘s Revolving Green Fund, and I must record our thanks to HEFCE and to Eon Energy who helped with the funding package.  Now, not only has the plant, using the best of British technology, started to provide energy for our campus, but it has also been demonstrated to over 1,000 visitors to date, including some from overseas, and has been instrumental in our winning three national awards.”

The Harper Adams AD plant has the potential to offset campus emissions more than three times over. It is fed farm slurry and waste food, and produces heat, power, compost and fertiliser, which support the running of campus buildings and farm operations.

The creation of the plant was made possible by the award, in June 2009, of loan finance from the Higher Education Funding Council for England’s Revolving Green Fund. Harper Adams was one of only three UK projects to benefit from the £10 million fund. 

The University College then brought on board partners BiogenGreenfinch, who supplied the plant, and power company E.ON. The plant began to generate energy last April, and the handover from BiogenGreenfinch was completed in the autumn. 

Richard Barker, CEO, BiogenGreenfinch said, "This is very rewarding milestone for all the partners who've been involved in the project. We are delighted that Harper Adams University College now has a platform to educate both students and the wider community about the benefits of anaerobic digestion and for the opportunities it presents to produce renewable energy from agricultural and food waste"

Don Leiper, Managing Director of E.ON’s Energy Services business, said: “The way we create and use energy is changing and projects like this will help us develop new, sustainable energy solutions for the future. Smaller, community scale, renewable energy projects such as this have two benefits; they provide a secure, reliable and low carbon energy supply whilst also making use of a valuable waste resource that would otherwise be sent to landfill.”

In its short life, the Harper Adams AD has won a hat-trick of national awards and is already proving to be an effective demonstration facility.  As well as acting as a resource for teaching and research, Harper Adams hopes this project will, in due course, benefit the local community by providing a means of environmentally-friendly food waste disposal. 

The project brings Harper Adams University College’s farm to fork approach full circle. Teaching and research covers every stage of food production and consumption, and now the recycling of food waste to create renewable energy and benefit farming operations. 

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