Socio-economic benefits of micro-scale digestion

More on-farm micro-scale digesters also has socio-economic benefits for the region. At this page, an overview is shown of what micro scale digestion can mean for the region, as well as for the farmers. themselves.

Employment growth

Micro-scale digesters (MSD) do not require many man-hours for operation. Farmers can operate and maintain them themselves. This means more work for farmers, but according to those who operate such plants, it is manageable.

On the other hand, new work places can be created in other areas, i.e. technology providers, plant developers, and technical support.

Capital formation in the region

In case of MSD local resources are used and local companies perform maintenance of installations. Therefore the capital remains in the region. This contributes to improving quality of life of the residents.

Social responsibility growth

MSD are usually built on farms, near houses. The proximity is much closer than in the case of large-scale installations. When planning an investment in a MSD, it is good to talk to the neighbours about it. The distance from other buildings should be enough to make the noise level acceptable. A well-operated plant will not have a negative impact on living conditions.

Farmers who have neighbours with animal farms can launch a biogas project together, or make an agreement to utilize also their manure. This type of cooperation can tighten social cohesion.

Micro-scale biogas energy production characteristics

Less power network failures

Decentralized energy production in plants with MSD improves the security of energy supply for households through reducing grid loads. When farms are more energy-independent, the grid load is reduced and the whole power network is less susceptible to failures. Furthermore, the significant costs for the grid loses and for the grid stabilisation can be avoided.

Additionally, it should be mentioned that MSD, as opposed to many renewable energy sources, is not weather-dependent but a very stable and predictable output. Therefore, such source is very desirable for base-load generation. It could take some of the burden from grid energy sources, such as power plants.

Advantages for farmers

More stable and cheaper energy

Many activities related to farming require different forms of energy. As it happens, biogas can be transformed on site into electricity, heat or even fuel for machinery and transport. Having one’s own secure source of energy on the farm should, among other advantages, be as important as an insurance policy.

Moreover, producing energy for the farm may be profitable mostly due to the avoided cost of energy purchase. The income from surplus energy sales may be an additional advantage and shorten the payback time of the investment. This aspect however, strongly depends on national or local policy and relation between network operator and producer of renewable energy. As it is observed in most of EU countries, the network operators tend to favour large energy producers over small ones. Therefore, there is some room for policy improvements to ensure proper balance between all parties.

Unnecessary disposal of manure

Manure is utilized on the farm, so the farm owner does not pay for its disposal and avoids costs of manure transport. However, in animal breeding regions like Denmark, Brittany in France or north-west Germany, where there is an excess of nutrients for the soil produced locally, if manure is digested on the farm, the digestate might need to be exported from the region.

Less chemical fertilizers

Digestate is a better fertilizer than untreated manure (see chapter 5.4). Its costs are negligible, because it is produced from the farm’s own residue.

With better manure management due to the application of digestate instead of manure, less chemical fertilizers are needed on the farm, with the same crop yields. Also, the production of chemical fertilizers costs a lot of energy and fossil resources.

Organic Products

Avoiding chemical fertilizers and safe utilization of manure on the farm (digestion treatment results in low levels of pathogenic germs in digested manure, see chapter 5.4 of the report) can help obtain Eco-Labels or organic farming certificates for farm products, which raises their market value.

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