Four farms will provide waste to an underground power station. The power station will be owned and managed by the village. Waste will come from domestic users and local farmers.
The power station will provide electricity and hot water via a ring main. All 120 homes in the village will be put on the hot water ring. The electricity will supply the village and any surplus be fed to the grid.
Power will come from three small generators which can be fed by wood chips, oil seed rape and gas from a biogester. Diary farms with biogesters can supply the gas, and in return be fed hot water to their dairies
The scheme goes further than simply owning and operating a power station. Anyone can supply the scheme with electricity, for example from a wind turbine, the scheme supplies the village, then at bulk rates any surplus sold to the grid.
Localised energy schemes, decoupled from the grid, are the way to move forward. The locality becomes energy self-sufficient, relying on the grid merely to balance out differences in load.
Set aside land can be used to grow fuel crops. But herein lies the danger.
Making use of waste, turns waste into useful energy, wind turbines on farms, gives farms an additional cash input, but growing fuel, apart from its inherent inefficiency, puts fuel in direct competition with food, for scarce land resources.
In Brazil, sugar mills are dual purpose, can output ethanol or sugar. Brazil has aggressively pursued an ethanol fuel policy. It slackened off during the 1990s when the price of oil fell, but is once again taking off with volatile oil prices, and helped by the latest cars being able to use gasoline or ethanol.
Brazil is now an exporter of ethanol. The UK in 2005, imported 80,000 tonnes of ethanol from Brazil.
A knock-on effect has been to push up world sugar prices.
We grow oil seed rape, even though there is little use for the oil other than cattle feed.
Oil seed rape could provide the feedstock for biodiesel, but do we wish to see ever more acres of ghastly oil seed rape? Possibly GM at that.
From the farmers viewpoint, even if only to power his own equipment, all he needs is simple crushing equipment and a filter and he has biodiesel. Any surplus can be sold to the public.
And it is carbon neutral.
We hear a lot of crap from Tony Blair on green energy, reduction of greenhouse gases, but practical initiatives, tax incentives, are lacking. The Treasury is cutting tax incentives for biofuel.
The Treasury is likely to use the renewable transport fuel obligation as an excuse to cut the fuel duty rebate of 20p a litre. This is the rebate biofuel producers can currently claim. An incentive to produce biofuels.
Instead it will be replaced by an obligation on the oil majors to use biofuels as part of their fuel mix.
In Germany, biodiesel is encouraged by zero tax.
In the UK, 27p a litre has been leveled on veggie diesel, even if you have blagged it from the local fish n chip shop. This raises the price of veggie diesel to around 70p a litre, which makes it competitive with diesel at the pumps at around 75p a litre.
Revenue and Customs, in their wisdom, wish to raise the tax to 47p a litre, bringing the price to 90p a litre which immediately makes it uncompetitive with the pump price.
On the other hand, diesel out of the refinery, mixed with animal and vegetable oils, remains at 27p a litre.
Great news of course to Big Business.
Ultimately, it depends on the oil price. $75 a barrel and farmers become competitive. Over $100 a barrel, no farmer will be growing food, no matter what the government subsidy.
Lester R Brown, Plan B 2.0, Norton, 2006
Down on the Farm, Private Eye, 17 February – 2 March 2006
Farms will power a parish South East Farmer, January 2006
Keith Parkins, Soft Energy Paths, May 2001
Keith Parkins, Veggie Power, August 2003
Keith Parkins, Brittle Energy, October 2003
Treasury plans may derail biofuel hopes, South East Farmer, February 2006