A London-based renewable energy fund has branched out into Northern Ireland where it says it has £27m to spend on anaerobic digestion projects on farms.
Assured Asset Energy Ltd (AAE) said it could finance up to 30 anaerobic digestion projects – with maximum funding per project of £2.8m – and create 180 construction jobs.
According to the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute, anaerobic digestion (AD) has potential to provide a stable supply of electricity to the grid.
It estimates that if the slurry from housed livestock was used for anaerobic digestion, around 7% of Northern Ireland's electricity needs could be met.
AAE said the projects could ultimately generate clean renewable energy for up to 5,000 homes in Northern Ireland.
A spokesman said: "The Northern Ireland farming community, who have struggled due to the challenging economic climate, have the opportunity to avail of funding under the new project.
"The plants will process up to 450,000 tonnes of farm waste annually to produce biogas and generate up to 8.5MW of green electricity for connection and sale onto the Northern Ireland grid."
The fund said it would contribute towards the target of having 40% of energy from renewable sources by 2020.
Northern Ireland has just eight anaerobic digestion plants, compared to nearly 100 in England and Wales. A launch event attended by Environment Minister Mark H Durkan was held yesterday.
Alex Colombini, director at AAE, said: "We're very excited to be launching this fund that will be of great benefit to local farmers and will help Northern Ireland reduce its carbon footprint.
"We encourage farmers who have the capacity to take advantage of the opportunity."
The Environment Minister said: "Renewable energy really is a win-win – a win for the environment and the economy.
"This fund will help more farmers to seize the benefits of this renewable technology which can help them make savings and reduce running costs in the longer term.
"Anaerobic digesters can also assist in reducing carbon emissions and help meet Executive renewable energy targets," he said.
AAE funds and develops commercial anaerobic plants and gasification plants for processing general waste, food waste, farm waste and harvested crops.
It said its sites would be used to produce biogas to generate green electricity to be sold onto the national grid. The company also has offices in Dublin, and is part of Assured Asset Finance.