Sparsholt College are making preparations for public consultation ‘drop-in sessions’ to further inform local residents in surrounding villages about their proposed Green Gas Mill.

The College announced its plans last week to form a partnership with Britain’s leading green energy firm, Ecotricity, to build a new Green Gas Mill on its site in Hampshire.

The Mill, which will be positioned deep within the heart of the College’s 450 acre campus will be part of the College’s plans to develop a Centre of Excellence for Renewable Energies to grow skills for this emergent sector and as a demonstration facility for the technology.

The mill would turn grass into green gas using anaerobic digestion to supply both the college and the national gas grid through a new gas connection. This would provide a potential means for Sparsholt village to co-ordinate a cost effective community connection and an opportunity for a village-wide on-demand rural heat supply.

The mill will be fed with cut grass from surrounding farmland and the feedstock will be sourced within a maximum radius of 15 miles of the college. The feedstock will be transported directly to the site from the B3049, up Westley Lane to the college farm, avoiding Sparsholt village entirely. This routing plan will be formalised in the planning application, which will be presented to the Local Authority as part of the planning application.

The cut grass will be transported by standard agricultural vehicles – such as tractors with large trailers, rather than lorries – so the disruption to local residents will be negligible.

Tim Jackson, Sparsholt College principal, said he hoped that the upcoming public consultation ‘drop-in sessions’ would help residents understand the true facts of the project, and provide an opportunity to give feedback and ask any questions.

Principal Tim Jackson said: “We think it’s important to correct any unhelpful speculation about the size and scale of the plant and give a clear outline of how the feedstock will be transported.

“We won’t be using ‘thousands of lorries’ as reported in the press, the feedstock will be transported by tractor and trailer which are a familiar sight in this rural community, carting material from the same fields we will be using. These deliveries will mainly substitute existing vehicle movements derived from farming the local agricultural landscape rather than create additional movements.

“We have been in periodic communication with the local Parish Council of Sparsholt over a 15 month period, and staged our first public open event back in 2014 when our ambitions to build an anaerobic digestor were first announced. We will continue with our local community dialogue, sharing our plans as part of the consultation process.

“This is a brilliant project that produces carbon-neutral gas from grass. There are many benefits for the college including the provision of education and training for young people looking for a career in renewable energy professions, a significantly reduced carbon footprint for the college, reducing college operating costs and providing lots of hands-on work experience for our students, as we do with all of our farm based practical units.

“However there are also wider benefits to the local community. Local farmers will benefit by providing grass to run the mill, while the process supports food production and the environment by providing a natural fertiliser that reduces the need for artificial chemicals, and by growing the grass in rotation with crops, the soil is further improved through rest.

“The Green Gas Mill will also employ a number of people directly at the plant and through the delivery of feedstock.

“And local residents could also benefit from a new connection to the gas grid allowing them access to cheaper ‘mains gas’ for the first time.

“We are very excited by this opportunity and especially grateful to the Enterprise M3 Local Enterprise Partnership for providing the £1.2m grant for the teaching centre which will be incorporated as part of this Gas Mill development.”

The College will be holding its first public consultation event on Thursday 24 September 2015, 15.00 to 20.00 at Sparsholt College.

An FAQ page on the Green Gas Mill can be found here