Plans to build a new Green Gas Mill at Sparsholt College in Hampshire have been announced today – part of the college’s intention to create a new Centre of Excellence for Environmental Technologies.

Sparsholt is teaming up with Ecotricity, the world’s first green energy company, who will develop and build the Green Gas Mill, which will turn grass into green gas to supply both the college and the national gas grid[i].

The college will use the Centre of Excellence to train more specialist professionals for the rapidly growing sector of Green Gas generation – the alternative to fracking in Britain.

Tim Jackson, Sparsholt College principal, said: “It’s an exciting time for the college in developing our status as a ‘Centre for Demonstration of Environmental Technologies’, which is being supported by Ecotricity and through a grant from the Enterprise M3 Local Enterprise Partnership.

“We’re already significantly expanding our rooftop solar panel array, we’ve submitted a planning application for a wind turbine; we are intending to expand our wood fuel technologies – and we’re now putting ourselves at the centre of what is the future of gas generation in Britain.

“The Centre of Excellence will be a key resource to develop specialist professionals to work for the green gas industry, training engineers, plant managers and technicians in what is a jobs growth area across the agriculture, energy, waste, water and food processing sectors.”

The Sparsholt College Green Gas Mill, fuelled by locally harvested grass, could produce enough clean gas to power the equivalent of around 4,200 homes every year.

The feedstock will be transported directly to the site from the B3049 directly up Westley Lane to the college farm avoiding Sparsholt village entirely. The management and routing of vehicles from the existing agricultural producers is under consideration and will be included in the planning application.

Ecotricity founder Dale Vince said: “We introduced the concept of making gas from grass in April, and the Sparsholt Green Gas Mill will be one of the first four we’ll be putting into planning this year.

“It’s a very exciting new concept – green gas is carbon neutral, it supports food production, it’s sustainable, and it actually benefits wildlife and the local environment, creating new habitats.

“We’re even more excited to be teaming up with Sparsholt, helping to train the new generation of green gas engineers.”

The project will also enable a new gas connection that will allow local residents to get cheaper ‘mains gas’ for the first time.

Dale continued: “Green gas is big opportunity for Britain – it can make a big contribution to reducing carbon emissions and making us more energy independent; and theoretically there’s enough non-food producing farmland in Britain to meet 95% of Britain’s domestic and commercial needs[ii].

“Compare that to fracking, which Defra’s recent report has shown has significant environmental and health risks – and could even reduce house prices by up to 7%[iii] – and that’s before any of the problems start happening.”

To begin the public consultation process, Sparsholt College and Ecotricity will be holding some afternoon/evening drop-in sessions for local people over the coming weeks.

The consultation process is design to inform local residents about our plans, get feedback, and gather opinion to help ensure that all issues and concerns are taken into consideration.

[i] The Green Gas Mills will make gas from grass – sourced from marginal land on farms in the local area – using Anaerobic Digestion to produce biogas that is purified into biomethane that’s used first by the college, with the leftover fed straight into the national grid. While a natural fertiliser that’s a by-product of the AD process will go back onto the farmers fields to improve the soil.

[ii] Based the latest Defra figures (see below) which show 8.39m hectares of grazing land in the UK and National Grid forecasts that efficiencies in domestic and commercial gas use will need to reduce consumption by a quarter from 557 TWh to 416 TWh by 2035 to meet legally-binding climate change targets – the UK could theoretically meet 95% of that consumption through making Green Gas from grass based on each AD plant producing 78.84 GWh of gas per year from 1670 ha of grassland.

The latest Defra figures that break down land use for 2013, there are:

  • 198 million ha rough grazing
  • 9 million ha permanent grassland
  • 2 million ha temporary grassland
  • Total = 8.39 million ha

[iii] Entitled Shale Gas Rural Economy Impacts, the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) document was released on 1 July 2015 after a freedom of information battle.

To find out more about our Green Gas Mill, follow this link to our FAQs page .