Fenland farmers bidding for sugar beet plant

Plans have been submitted to create an anerobic digester in Wimblington as farmers look to diversify.

Farmer-owned business Fengrain hopes to process 45,000 tonnes of sugar beet, rye, grass or maize into energy at the 3.5 hectare site off Hook Lane.

The aim is to supply gas into the local grid system along with using electricity on site.

Fengrain has submitted a planning application to Fenland District Council to put up the digester plant along with three silage clamps, earth bunding surrounding an alligator tank for liquid storage and the formation of a lagoon.

Fengrain’s planning statement says: “About six months ago it was approached by some members asking that the possibility of processing sugar or energy beet through an anaerobic digestion facility be investigated.

“Members are concerned about the future profitability of this essential break crop, due to changes in the quota system for supplying British Sugar imposed by the European Union and coming into force in 2017.

“Fengrain has held an open meeting with many local growers who expressed their support. Due to the growers’ needs to diversify the market for beet, linked to AD; the inability of UK Power Networks to deliver enough electricity to Fengrain and its neighbours, as well as the possibility of producing gas to use in the grain store driers, Fengrain decided to apply for planning permission.”

The site is located on land north and east of the existing grain store. The digester will not only take feedstock from Fengrain’s farming members but it could use waste wheat and other grains stored at the site but not fit for sale. Left-over products from the process, 25,000 tonnes of liquid digestate and 10,000 tonnes of dry digestate, will be spread on local farmland.

The statement adds: “The facility has been designed in order to reduce all possible impacts on local environmental and residential amenity.

“For example, noise abatement measures have been suggested, the digestion tanks (the highest structures) are positioned in places with most screening, a new access has been proposed that takes traffic away from local residents and the clamps are positioned away from nearby residents.

“In overall conclusion, it is considered that the positive attributes associated with this development outweigh any potential negative impacts.”