Back in 2010, UK-based renewable energy firm Ecotricity launched a service providing vegan biogas to households, aiming to replace the use of natural gas for heating, cooking and other non-electricity energy applications.
At the time, the company was sourcing biogas from abroad—but the end goal was to create "green gas" mills across the country which would use waste and/or agricultural inputs like grass as a feedstock.
That vision appears to be taking shape. The company has just submitted a planning application for a green gas mill at Sparsholt College, near Winchester, which will generate enough gas to power 4,000 households once completed. The feedstocks for the plant will be grass and rye, sourced from marginal, non-food growing land on local farms, and the byproduct of the anaerobic digestion process will be returned to the farms as a soil improver. There are several more such plants in the pipeline.
Dale Vince, the founder of Ecotricity, explained that the benefits of these green gas plants will reach well beyond decreasing carbon emissions:
“We have to stop burning fossil fuels, and green gas will play a big part in helping us to achieve that in Britain – it’s good for our economy, because we’ll no longer need to import those expensive fossil fuels; it’s good for the environment, because it’s carbon neutral and creates new wildlife habitats; and it’s good for farmers, because it allows them to diversify, rely less on farming livestock, and build a more sustainable future."
Given Mr Vince's championing of a vegan lifestyle, he may be hoping that diversifying farmers' income may help them move on from farming animals all together. Either way, Ecotricity is working closely with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and other conservation organizations to ensure that the growing process will enhance, rather than harm, local wildlife.