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Saturday 24 March 2018
24 March 2018 - NEWS UPDATE
Renewable Energy

Anaerobic digestion transforms dairy revenues  

A Wiltshire dairy has increased revenues by more than £750,000 a year after investing in an anaerobic digestion (AD) plant. Stowell Farms in Pewsey will also use the AD facility to educate funders about renewable energy and to build bridges between the public and agriculture.


Gavin Davies at Stowell Farms

Farm manager Gavin Davies was faced with finding significant capital investment to improve the dairy unit at East Stowell and to meet amended slurry storage regulations.

Gavin brought in experts from EnviTec Biogas, who planned, built and now service a plant capable of producing 4.1 million kWh of electricity and 3.55 million kWh of surplus heat.

Electricity produced by the unit is used on the farm and sold to the grid under the 20-year Feed in Tariffs. About 85 per cent of the electricity is exported, the balance being used on the farm.

Heat is also used on the farm, and there are plans to pump the surplus to a leisure centre and two schools in Pewsey.

The AD unit is generating annual revenues of more than £750,000, and it helped secure financial backing for state-of-the-art housing and handling infrastructure for 500 cows.

Gavin said: "The AD plant has secured milk production at Stowell. It's also secured the existing workforce and allowed us to take on additional full- and part-time employees.

"Farming is a commoditised business, so predictability of income is at a premium, but the income and savings we get from AD are pretty much set and they are long term.

"That allows us to make much more informed and forward-looking business decisions."

The plant is fed with maize silage, waste feed and slurry – all of which are produced on the 1,315 hectare (3,250 acre) beef, sheep, arable and dairy operation.

Gavin said: "The revenue and savings from producing your own heat and power are considerable, but the benefits are much more wide-ranging than this.

"An AD plant helps with slurry management, which means there's no need for a lagoon and that in turn reduces odour.

"The digestate produced at the end of the process saves us a lot of fertiliser costs and unlike slurry the nutrients are readily available."

Gavin uses an education centre overlooking the new milking parlour for community open days – and to host groups of potential funders with little knowledge of farm-scale renewables.

He added: "Backing the AD side of a dairy business should be a no-brainer because it's almost index linked and for us it represented a better investment than wind or photovoltaics."

John Day, UK sales manager for EnviTec Biogas, said: "Gavin's passion for dairy and for farming as a whole was obvious.

"We worked with him to come up with a scheme that would secure the viability of the dairy facilities and de-risk the business for many years."

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