The Prince of Wales opened the country’s first commercial full-scale anaerobic digester and biomethane plant on a visit to Dorset yesterday.
The plant will supply sufficient renewable gas for 56,000 homes directly to Poundbury – the experimental development on Duchy of Cornwall land near Dorchester.
Charles praised the “remarkable engineering feat” which has made the plant, at nearby Rainbarrow Farm, the first in the UK to inject renewable gas directly into the local distribution network on a permanent basis. The Prince, who takes a keen interest in renewables, has been consulted at every stage of the project, owned and run by JV Energen – a joint venture between farmers and the duchy. As he unveiled a plaque to mark the occasion, he said: “As far as I am concerned it is a very exciting and encouraging day.
“I have been badgering the Duchy and others over the years to find a way of kick-starting the anaerobic digestion sector in this country.
“I am particularly pleased that we have local businesses involved. All this will make a huge difference in reducing levels of waste sent to landfill.
“I remember when we first started looking at Poundbury 25 years ago, I remember wanting to try and see if we could then start something like this related to human sewage. But I’m afraid I was 25 years too early.”
The anaerobic digester will get through 41,000 tonnes of maize, grass silage and food waste each year, collected from local farms and businesses, producing methane-rich biogas and the solid leftovers, to be used as a crop fertiliser.
Farmer Nick Finding, who is a member of JV Energen, welcomed the development. He said: “Growing maize for the anaerobic digestion plant means we can produce much more energy per acre and we no longer have to send crops abroad to convert into biodiesel.“Growing energy crops is an important additional income stream for local farmers like me.”
Earlier in the day, Charles met patients as he opened a new cancer unit at Dorset County Hospital in Dorchester.
During the visit, which lasted an hour and a half, the Prince also toured the digital mammography suite and met orthopaedic patients.
He was introduced to Rachel Easter, 19, who is undergoing treatment for an injury to her hand, and Daphne Kittcatt, who underwent a hip replacement operation yesterday.
The Prince also unveiled a plaque to mark his visit to the new 14-bed Fortuneswell Ward – his first visit to the hospital in 25 years – and paid “very special tribute to all the remarkable staff”.
The Prince then visited Poundbury and joined representatives of Trees for Dorset to plant an oak tree at Middle Farm to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.