Could biogas be the answer?
There is something very appealing about the use of biogas to generate energy. Animal waste is a great source of pollution (not least with methane, which is a terrifyingly potent greenhouse gas) and yet it could be a ‘free’ source of energy.
The idea is not new.350 homes in Cirencester, Gloucestershire, for instance, receive their electricity thanks to the excretive efforts of chickens. As so often, once one gets beyond the pilot plant the difficulty is cost. A report by YourIs. Com, the European research media centre, looks at the impact of the EU’s Farmagas programme, which finished in 2011.
The purpose of the programme was to disseminate information to farmers, particularly in Eastern Europe, about Biogas. But, the study finds, take-up has been low in Hungary, Romania and Poland despite these largely agricultural countries having considerable potential.
The problems it identifies include high intial costs, the relatively low price of electricity, and the regulatory framework. And its recommendation? Government subsidy. We know this can work. Germany built its PV market in this way, and subsidies here had an enormous impact as well, even if they did skew the market somewhat. Whether in these straitened times those subsidies can happen remains to be seen. But the cause is such a good one – not only generating ‘free’ energy but also removing a pollutant, that we have to hope it will. Unlike growing crops for biomass, biogas production works in tandem with food production, not against it.