Farming Today This Week
Charlotte Smith visits a new straw-fired power station which is taking in its first bales to be turned into power. The plant near Sleaford in Lincolnshire will power more than 65 thousand homes and take in 238,000 tonnes of straw a year from farms within a 40 mile radius. This new power station isn't the only one using farm waste to create bioenergy. We hear how chicken litter from henhouses is also being incinerated for power.
Both of these projects support the UK Government's ambitions for 15% of the energy we consume to be generated from renewable sources by 2020. The NFU says that farmers can get involved, and this week DEFRA has announced £3 million of new funding for farmers to build anaerobic digester-based mini-power plants on their land.
The energy from the Sleaford power plant will be sold into the national grid, as well as powering a district heating system in the town. While the new power plant will provide a market for farmers to sell their straw, not everyone's been able to find an outlet to sell their farm-grown fuel. We hear from one farmer who's struggling to find a market for his willow, and explore the latest research from the University of Southampton which has mapped areas of supply and demand for energy crops such as miscanthus. We also meet a tomato grower in Evesham producing his own natural gas using a mixture of plant matter, slurry and specially grown energy crops in a giant anaerobic digester.
But will power plants like Sleaford be springing up all over the country to meet our increasing demand for energy? And is a straw-fired station actually bad news for livestock farmers, who could be using the straw for their animals?
Presented by Charlotte Smith. Produced by Jules Benham.