Britain’s leading green energy company, Ecotricity, has submitted a planning application for a Green Gas Mill at Sparsholt College – a partnership that will inject £60 million into the local economy.
As part of the unique partnership, Ecotricity will finance and build the Green Gas Mill, with an initial £10 million investment, and will also help fund the development of a renewable energy centre, where the college can train the workforce necessary to support the green gas revolution coming to Britain.
Ecotricity introduced the concept of making green gas from grass in Britain early last year[i], and if the company’s application to Winchester City Council is accepted, the Green Gas Mill will pump £3 million into the local economy every year for the twenty years of its operation.
Dale Vince, Ecotricity founder, said: “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.
“The world signed up to the limiting temperature rise to well below 2 degrees C at the Paris Climate Conference last year – that included a long term goal of being carbon neutral after 2050 and eventually carbon negative, which means taking more carbon out of the atmosphere than we put in. They’re big ambitions – and green gas is essential to that vision.
“Sparsholt is one of the first Green Gas Mills we’re looking to build in Britain – one of the first in what will be a green gas revolution in this country. And what’s particularly special is that, together with Sparsholt, we’ll be helping to train the green gas engineers Britain will need.”
The Sparsholt College Green Gas Mill, fuelled by locally harvested grass, could produce enough clean gas to power the equivalent of 4,000 homes every year.
Tim Jackson, Sparsholt College principal, said: “We’ve carried out public consultation over the past four months with local councils, farmers and residents – and the feedback has been a mix of those who are very positive to those with concerns about the impact on local roads and the visual landscape.
“I am pleased to say that we were able to provide facts and explanations to address most of the concerns and look forward to responding to more of those as these arise.
“The Green Gas Mill is the next step on the journey towards Sparsholt College developing our status as a ‘Centre for the Demonstration of Environmental Technologies’, which is being supported by Ecotricity and through a grant from the Enterprise M3 Local Enterprise Partnership.
“Creating our own green gas on site will massively cut our environmental impact and reduce our energy bills – which have made up an increasing portion of our budget over the past few years, money that could be better spent on educating our students.
“However, the fact we can share the financial and environmental benefits of this project with the local farming community is a massively positive outcome for the college.”
Up to eight specialist professional jobs will be created to run the Green Gas Mill, while the new supply contracts with farmers – providing the grass and rye feedstock required to supply the anaerobic digestion process – will also reinforce existing jobs.
Feedback from local residents has most frequently focused on concerns about extra traffic and the routes chosen to transport feedstock.
Tim continued: “We have addressed residents concerns in the planning application and can reassure people that the Green Gas Mill will only receive normal farm traffic such as tractors and trailers which are typical of the countryside.
“We will ensure deliveries don’t happen during peak traffic times, tractors stick to main roads wherever possible, do not go through Sparsholt village, and in fact even at the busiest times of year during harvest, feedstock movements would represent a very small proportion of existing college traffic and be well within the capacity of the highway network.
“The Green Gas Mill will be a key component in the College’s development of a Centre of Excellence that will produce specialist professionals to work for the green gas industry, training engineers, plant managers and technicians in what is a growth area across the agriculture, energy, waste, water and food processing sectors.”