SCOTTISH Government officials have been given an insight into the scale of and investment being made in renewable energy on north-east farms.
Civil servants were taken on a tour of Aberdeenshire, where they saw anaerobic digestion at Turriff, commercial and domestic biomass boilers and an archimedes screw for hydro power at New Deer and small and large wind turbines at Auchnagatt and Methlick.
The visit was organised by NFU Scotland. Its north-east renewables co-ordinator, David Smith, said the day had surpassed his expectations.
He said: “It went very well. The farmer participants were pleased with the way they were able to explain the problems they had encountered in getting their developments up and running. The Scottish Government staff were more than pleased with the meeting as it was a chance for them to get out of the office and see how renewable energy projects are working and hear about the issues farmers are encountering. They are now anxious we keep up the dialogue. I think they were quite taken aback at what is being done here in the north-east.”
Among those taking part were the Elrick family – brothers Bill and Gordon and their sons, Colin and David. They have made a £215,000 investment in a biomass boiler at their Whitehill Storage Company, near New Deer, to replace diesel burners.
They now use wood chips to generate the heat needed to dry the grain they store for themselves, other local farmers and several merchants, including Openfield, Scotgrain and Grainco.
The chips, sourced from the Olpihants, near Turriff, and Puffin Pellets, are burned to take water to 60C, with the heat extracted from that through radiators. They supplement the biomass heat with gas burners to take the drying temperature of the air passing through the grain to 85C.
Bill Elrick said there had been two diesel burners, but they had becoming expensive to operate because of rising prices. The wood-chip boiler, which attracted a £100,000 Forestry Commission Scotland biomass heat scheme grant, is simple and cheaper to operate. Figures produced by Colin, who runs his own biomass boiler business, showed the wood chips costing £21 an hour, against £54.33 for kerosene. Annual savings were put at £43,329. The carbon saving through using wood compared to kerosene was put at 338 tonnes.
Bill said the business had dried considerably more grain this year because of the wet season. “We’ve saved a heap of money. The gas lorry was not here as often either filling up the tank.”