Goat dung to power local community energy project

Totnes Renewable Energy Society has been given an £18k grant to study the feasibility of the anaerobic digester scheme to process farm waste

A community renewable energy business has just been given an £18,000 grant to study the possibility of using goats’ dung to power a village in Devon.

Totnes Renewable Energy Society (TRESOC) will use the funds to look at how to set up a 100kW anaerobic digester producing energy from farmyard manure at Old Parsonage Farm on the Dartington Hall estate.

If the study, backed by the government’s Rural Community Energy Fund, proves the scheme is commercially viable, TRESOC hopes to raise cash to build it through a community share offer.

This will mean the plant is owned by the local community, ensuring the economic benefits from the project are shared locally.

Jo Talling, Dartington Hall Trust’s property director, said: “We welcome this research into whether an anaerobic digester would work on the estate, as there are currently large quantities of farmyard and food waste produced here that are unharvested.

“We would be very keen to add to the existing renewable systems we’ve been installing on the estate since 2016: the two biomass boilers heating the Green Table Cafe, listed Dartington Hall courtyard buildings, the granary and Space studios, as well as a solar array.”

The plant would process farmyard manure with other green materials and, potentially, food wastes from cafes and restaurants on the estate.

The dung and food waste would be processed by anaerobic bacteria in an on-farm digestion tank to produce methane gas, which would be used to generate electricity and heat.

The spent digestate, with valuable plant nutrients, could be used as a clean organic fertiliser on the farm.

Roger Papworth, Rural Community Energy Fund programme manager, said: “The fund was pleased to award a grant to Totnes Renewable Energy Society as this is a great example of a community group investigating renewable energy options that the fund aims to support.

“We look forward to hearing of a positive outcome once this work has been completed.”

Previous initiatives by TRESOC include the installation of solar panels at South Devon Rural Housing Association


The feasibility work will be carried out in partnership with tenant farmer Jon Perkin at Old Parsonage Farm and Dr Phil Hobbs of Anaerobic Analytics, a leading international expert in biogas research, specialising in optimising bioenergy productivity.

Monitoring of the energy demand of Old Parsonage Farm and the wider Dartington Hall Estate will be completed with Totnes-based Argand Solutions.

The grant will also be used for engaging with the local community, says TRESOC, which plans to extend its Renewable Energy Experiential Learning programme to include two more local schools.

The local community will be invited to several meetings to discuss the project, which is planned to take place early next year.

Interested parties will be invited to take part in a ‘walk and talk’ session, to visit the site and to ask questions about the project in an informal setting.

TRESOC’s Renewable Energy Experiential Learning Day Project, co-delivered by the Bio-regional Learning Centre, is a 4-day module for Key Stage 2 students within the Totnes area.

Thanks to a donation from an anonymous TRESOC supporter, it was able to make a short film during the pilot to show potential sponsors and schools what the project is all about.

TRESOC’s Renewable Energy Experiential Learning [REEL] is a schools programme co-developed and designed with the Bio-Regional Learning Centre.

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