Why would you want an AD plant in your town?

By Chris Winward

As energy availability becomes a topic of worry for many homeowners, with concerns around a natural gas shortage affecting Europe in 2023, you may have heard anaerobic digestion suggested as a possible solution. But what is anaerobic digestion (AD) and why should you want an AD plant in your town?

A circular economy

Green gas generated from AD plants reduces the reliance on fossil fuels, contributing towards the UK’s overall net zero targets and increasing renewable energy availability.

AD plants offer a sustainable source of renewable energy for your community. Organic waste such as domestic and commercial food waste, agricultural waste and sewage waste can be put into a digestion tank to produce a renewable biogas. Biogas can then be upgraded to produce biomethane, which can be used in the same way as natural gas. This creates a circular energy system – generating energy from waste. It’s as simple as that.

Not only do AD plants utilise waste, they also stop food waste from entering landfill sites. When food waste is left to rot as landfill, it emits methane, a powerful greenhouse gas which is 34 times more damaging to the atmosphere than CO2[1]. Therefore, by sending food waste to AD sites, the amount of methane emitted into the atmosphere is limited.

The creation of local jobs

The development of an AD plant provides jobs for the local community, as does the running of the plant itself. AD plants are operational 24 hours a day, seven days a week, meaning there are lots of opportunities for recruitment at the plant. This limits the need for local residents to travel out of town for work, reducing secondary travel emissions and costs.

The variety of jobs on an AD plant also means there is opportunity for a role for everyone, for example, engineering, mechanical and managerial roles. What’s more, there is the ability to develop across various areas. Typically, an AD plant will create 60-100 jobs in the local community, both directly and indirectly.

AD produces more than just renewable energy

So far, we’ve explained how AD plants generate renewable energy, however, the process of AD produces more than just green gas.

Digestate, one of the resultant products of AD, can be used by local farmers as a soil conditioner and fertiliser for their land, because it is rich in nutrients needed for farming, including nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus. This reduces the need for costly artificial fertilisers.

CO2 is also produced as a result of the process, and this can be used by multiple industries including the pharmaceutical sector and the food and drink sector.

Potential to facilitate energy independence

By having an AD plant which supplies the local community with a green alternative to natural gas, you can reduce your reliance on external sources of energy. This offers residents stability and mitigates the impact of energy shortages in global markets.

In the future, community-led AD plants could also set their own prices, providing residents with lower, community-controlled and consistent energy costs.

[1] The Challenge | UNECE