Two anerobic digestion plants in Co Tyrone and Co Down which process waste from beef and dairy herds have won millions of pounds of funding from the Green Investment Bank (GIB).
The projects – run by Rodney Sloan of PAR Renewables in Cookstown and James Cromie in Banbridge, who have been advised by KPMG – will create 22 new jobs in total, and will be fuelled by waste from livestock farmers in the area.
The bank, set up by the UK government to fund renewable energy projects, said anerobic digestion was one of Northern Ireland's most promising renewable energy technologies.
Shaun Kingsbury, the Northern Ireland-born chief executive of the GIB, said: "This announcement is a textbook example of the types of project we should be seeing all across the UK.
"It's economically important, injecting £6.5m into the rural economy in Northern Ireland and generating 22 new jobs.
"It's green – turning farm waste into renewable energy and fertiliser.
"And it's good for the local farming community, earning and saving them money."
The bank said the projects would generate enough renewable energy to power 1,700 households every year and would reduce greenhouse gas production.
Anaerobic digestion was a process which could help farmers in Northern Ireland "become more sustainable, create jobs and generate income from their waste," the bank said.
The bank said the deals were likely to be the first of several similar projects in Northern Ireland.
Anaerobic digestion is a natural process which takes organic waste and breaks it down, producing a gas which is then turned into electricity.
The electricity can be used on-site or sold into the grid – and the process also creates the by-product digestate, which can be used as a cheap fertiliser by farmers.
Mr Kingsbury said Northern Ireland had taken the lead in anaerobic technology.
"We were delighted to help get these new projects moving and stand ready to back other community-based green projects like them across the UK."
PAR Renewables is the collective name for a group of three livestock farmers in Cookstown, whose 18,500 tonnes of farm waste will fuel their plant. The farmers have a long history of cooperation and already share infrastructure and machinery.
Their project is receiving an investment of £3m, of which £1.5m is from Green Investment Bank through its fund manager Foresight, and the remainder from Williams Industrial Services, a Co Tyrone engineering company.
Rodney Sloan said: "We took the decision to develop an on-farm anaerobic digestion plant over three years ago, pooling the resources across our three farm enterprises.
"While we received planning permission nearly two years ago, the lack of suitable funding in the market has delayed the project's development and we are therefore delighted to have worked with the GIB, Foresight, KPMG and Williams Industrial Services to secure a funding package tailored specifically to our project's requirements."
James Cromie, a farmer in Banbridge, and two neighbouring farmers will provide waste to fuel the Banbridge plant, which will sit on his land.
Mr Cromie said: "We are delighted to secure funding from the Green Investment Bank for our on-farm anaerobic digestion plant, having been developing the project for over six years.
"This project will diversify and improve the economic sustainability of our farming operations, while providing better utilisation of farm wastes and reducing the carbon dioxide footprint of our enterprise."
The Green Investment Bank is structured as a public limited company and is owned by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, with headquarters are in Edinburgh.
Creating jobs, saving money and complying with targets
By Shaun Kingsbury
Anaerobic digestion is a burgeoning renewable energy technology that takes organic waste and converts it into energy and Northern Ireland has the potential to lead the rest of the UK in bringing it forward.
The Green Investment Bank has announced funding for two anaerobic digestion projects this week, at farms in Co Tyrone and Co Down.
The projects take farm waste and use a natural process to break it down. This produces methane gas, which is then converted into energy, creating an additional revenue stream for the farmers.
It also creates digestate, a natural by-product which can be spread on the land as a fertiliser, saving farmers money and returning nutrients to the land.
These are textbook examples of the sorts of projects we would like to see across Northern Ireland. They create jobs, save and earn money for farmers, and benefit the environment.
Green Investment Bank CEO Shaun Kingsbury
There are significant environmental benefits of anaerobic digestion, which is why the technology qualifies for enhanced Government subsidies.
It reduces the carbon footprint of farm operations because waste left to decompose on the land emits greenhouse gases. And the renewable energy it produces reduces our reliance on fossil fuels.
The NI Executive has introduced a renewable energy target that states that 40% of all electricity must come from renewable sources by 2020.
With eight anaerobic digestion plants currently operating and a further 50 planned, this is a real growth technology for the region. Indeed, anaerobic digestion has been identified as the most significant renewable technology for Northern Ireland thanks to the strong agricultural sector, good environmental conditions and the proven technology these projects use.
There is funding available, including from the Green Investment Bank, to help farmers start saving carbon and making money from their waste.
As a native of Northern Ireland, I look forward to seeing the province getting more of these projects off the ground as it works to meet its renewable energy targets.
Shaun Kingsbury is the Belfast-born CEO of Green Investment Bank