December 18 In the Press

Renewable energy company to build legacy in Armagh

A planning application is nearing completion after months of consultation and planning which will put an Armagh village back on the map of national technological importance, as well as injecting new life into the community and creating much needed jobs.

Amber Green Energy, has applied for an anaerobic digestion facility, on land owned by farmer and businessman Gerald Mackle, which will see his farm embrace renewable energy resources in order to support it’s traditional farming activities.

Anaerobic digestion is the process of turning organic matter such as grass and other crops into gas for clean power production and heat generation.  The compact on-farm facility will see the farm diversify into the production of renewable energy in order to support local electricity needs and current farming activities.

The application for the farm in Milford will see the village making history yet again. Milford was once considered the most technologically advanced village in 19th century Ireland, as Milford House was the first to be powered with electricity produced by hydro electricity. It was also the village where the penalty kick rule was invented.

The proposed green energy facility will incorporate a 500kw plant, which will generate enough electricity and heat for hundreds of homes and is to be sited 155 metres south west of 61 Hill Street, Milford.

Speaking about the proposed development in Milford, Dwyer O’Neill, chief executive of Amber Green Energy, which has bases in Armagh and Belfast, said: “Anaerobic digestion offers farmers an excellent opportunity to diversify their traditional farming activities, which are under serious pressure. Traditionally we have grown grass for eating, excitingly now we have the technology to use it for heating too.

“The entrepreneurism and foresight of the landowner is in keeping with Armagh’s reputation as an area for ingenuity. We believe that this compact development is an important step forward and will contribute to Northern Ireland’s goal to produce 40 per cent of its energy requirements from renewable sources by 2020.

“Milford has always been known as a village for building legacies. It is where hydro electric technology was operating in 19th century Ireland, it was where the penalty kick rule was invented and here it is happening again – embarking on a new venture with new technology in energy generation.

“This facility is not only an exciting move for Armagh but it is exciting for all farmers across Northern Ireland who are currently investigating renewable energy power sources.”

We recognised concerns have been raised among members of the Milford community, and Amber Green recently attended a meeting at Armagh City Hotel that enabled residents to voice their concerns.

He said: “Residents expressed concerns about noise, odours and perceived increase in traffic coming to and from the site.  We were glad to have had the opportunity to respond to their concerns.”

He reiterated that the planning process ensures that the proper measures are taken to ensure that a project complies with the policy guidelines set out by the department. He said he was encouraged that the departments involved in the planning process have conducted a comprehensive and robust analysis of the planning application to ensure that it adheres to current government policy.

Mr O’Neill further went on to say that a recent announcement by DOE Minister Alex Attwood to ease planning rules for farmers including the construction of anaerobic digestion was in line with Amber Green’s position that AD is totally congruent with current farming activities.

Earlier this month, the DoE said: “Increasing the range of agricultural development that no longer needs planning permission will make it easier for farmers to undertake development. But these changes strike an essential balance. They free up farmers to make improvements with safeguards to protect neighbours and ensure that development is of an appropriate scale and character.”

The consultation will also provide for the installation of structures of up to 500m2 to house anaerobic digestion plant on agricultural units. Put simply, anaerobic digestion is a treatment process using, for example, farm crops and animal waste to produce biogas which can be used as a fuel to power and heat the farm.

Following public consultation and the Assembly process it is anticipated that these proposals will become law in Spring 2013.

Anaerobic digestion (AD) technology was equally endorsed in October by the Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill who was speaking about it at Northern Ireland’s first ever AD conference.

Speaking to the conference she said she wanted to see more farmers across Northern Ireland embrace the technology as a means of moving forward.

She said: “My Department supports the uptake of renewable energy in the agricultural sector through various means. The production of food will always remain the primary focus of the agricultural sector, however, the diversified income streams and avoided energy costs, associated with renewable energy projects, can only be of benefit.

“I want to see sustainable farm-based Anaerobic Digestion projects proposed. These should utilise the available resources of the farm efficiently and can produce energy for farm use. I want to see a focus on supporting existing farming activities.”

Mr O’Neill concluded that: “Amber Green has been working with farmers right across Northern Ireland. Their key focus is to cut their energy bills which are challenging their businesses and diversify their farming income, and we are delighted to be able to promote projects such as this at Milford.”

 

FACTBOX PANEL:

What is anaerobic digestion?

  • Anaerobic digestion is a treatment process which harnesses natural bacteria to produce biogas and a residue known as digestate,from waste biodegradable materials, such as agricultural manure and slurry.
  • Anaerobic digestion can also be used to produce biogas from non-waste feedstocks, such as grass or maize crops, grown specifically for the purpose.
  • Biogas is rich in methane and is a source of renewable energy. It is already commonly used in sewage works to power electricity generators and provide heat. Biogas can also be upgraded by removing the carbon dioxide and impurities, to produce biomethane. This can be used as a vehicle fuel, or it can be injected into the natural gas grid network.
  • The Environment Agency supports the use of AD as one of the ways of diverting biodegradable wastes from landfill, recovering value from them and reducing emissions of greenhouse gases.  This has yet to make its way into policy in Northern Ireland.
  • Anaerobic digestion can be carried out in small-scale systems such as those on farms and operated by farmers or used by businesses with large amounts of food waste. Alternatively it can be carried out in large, centralised systems such as those treating municipal food waste diverted from landfill by local authorities, or those using manures and slurries from several farms.

 

ENDS:

For further information contact Eleanor McGillie of McGillie Media & PR | PR Public Relations Northern Ireland on 028 3756 9863 | 07709805379

Notes To Editor:

  • ·         Amber Green Energy is an industry leader in green energy solutions in Northern Ireland. The company has bases in Armagh and Belfast. It adopts a dynamic approach to project funding, combined with proven technologies, ensures excellent returns on investments from renewable, sustainable power generation. Amber Green helps clients navigate green energy legislation and access to sustainable energy revenues. Amber Green Energy helps clients with the planning and design of sustainable green energy technologies for anaerobic digestion, wind power generation, combined heat and power and solar panels – photovoltaics. Amber Green Solar is a subsidiary of Amber Green Energy.
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