At a local level the plant at Llwyn Isaf will generate 3,500 megawatt hours per year of renewable electricity. This is enough to meet the annual demand of more than 700 homes, which is approximately equivalent to the number of households in Penygroes. This will make a valuable contribution to the renewable energy needs of the region and will help hit renewable energy targets.
The food waste that is produced locally can be recycled by this method rather than being sent to landfill, therefore preventing harmful greenhouse gases from entering the atmosphere. It will also help Gwynedd Council to meet its recycling targets and to avoid substantial fines for failing to meet those targets.
Gwynedd Council is introducing a weekly service to collect food waste, in order to maximise the collection of food waste, and increase its recycling performance.
To ensure nothing goes to waste, the biofertiliser that is produced during the process will be used on the local farmland. This means less drain on already stretched natural resources as it substitutes for the use of mineral and fossil fuel-derived agricultural fertilisers.
Anaerobic digestion is the Welsh Government’s preferred option for processing food waste and the technology is supported by Friends of the Earth and other environmental groups.
Research carried out by the government-funded organisation WRAP, indicates that more than 18 million tonnes of food waste is disposed of each year in the UK. The majority ends up in landfill sites where it rots and releases methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. Treating food waste by means of anaerobic digestion means the methane is captured and used to produce renewable energy instead.
Central and local governments are promoting the development of anaerobic digestion facilities across the UK to encourage the sustainable processing of food waste. The proposed plant will provide a facility to treat 11,000 tonnes per year of household food waste and food waste from food producers and retailers, some of which might otherwise be sent to landfill.
In terms of the bigger environmental picture, the renewable electricity generated by this process makes a valuable contribution to the country’s energy security for the future. Plants like these will help Wales and the UK reach their targets of producing 15%) of electricity from renewable sources by 2020.