Anaerobic Digestion Gets a Lift From Famous Investors in the UK

Anaerobic digestion is getting a lift in the UK from some famous investors – the Prince of Wales’ private estate and financier Jacob Rothschild.

Along with other investors, they are taking a $103 million stake in a new UK-based company, Tamar Energy, which plans to build 40 anerobic digestion plants totaling 100 megawatts (MW) over the next five years there.

The investors want to develop the industry in the UK, which so far has about 200 anaerobic digestor plants producing 170 megawatts (MW). The UK badly lags the rest of Europe, where there about 5000 biodigestors.

Anaerobic digestion is an important technology that both reduces the organic waste stream (the largest component of municipal waste) while providing renewable energy with a proven technology that doesn’t rely on subsidies.

It’s especially important and most often used on farms. A quintessential small, distributed energy source, anaerobic digesters can be sited on farms, gobbling up the manure from cows and other animals, and agricultural waste, and turning
it back into energy and fertilizer that can again be used by those farms.

Anaerobic digestion works through microorganisms which break down biodegradable material in the absence of oxygen. It converts organic waste into electricity or heat, and can provide predictable base load power through small, distributed plants.

Lead investors Rothschild’s RIT Capital Partners (LON:RCP) and Fajr Capital are joined by the Duchy of Cornwall, Lord Rothschild’s Family Interests, supermarket chain J Sainsbury, Sustainable Technology Investments, Low Carbon Limited, and others.

Fajr Capital is an international investment firm backed by shareholders that include the Abu Dhabi Investment Council, the Government of Brunei Darussalam, Khazanah Nasional of Malaysia and the Al Subeaei Group.

Sainsbury plans to direct its suppliers to the plants to help reduce its waste stream. The company, the leading retail user of anaerobic digestion, has a zero-food-waste-to-landfill policy. Currently, all surplus food waste from stores goes to charities or anaerobic digestors.

Tamar’s management team will be headed by Alan Lovell, who previously CEO of Infinis Ltd, which produces some 10% of the renewable energy in the UK. Tamar plans to acquire Adgen Energy, which has a pipeline of anaerobic digester projects.

This year, the largest project in the US will come online. AgPower
Group will operate anaerobic digesters
that convert cow manure at an Idaho dairy farm into 4.5 MW of biogas.

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