Chicken waste plant could power 4,000 homes in Northern Ireland
A huge £23m electricity plant being built at a quarry will be one of the first in the world to be powered by chicken waste.
The anaerobic digestion plant at Tully Quarry near Ballymena could generate 3MW of electricity from up to 40,000 tonnes of chicken litter a year - enough to power 4,000 homes, according to biogas plant supplier Xergi.
"The plant will convert the chicken litter into biogas, which will be used to produce green electricity. The nutrients become an environmentally friendly fertiliser that can replace chemical fertiliser for farmers," Xergi CEO Jurgen Ballermann said.
The Tully Centralised Anaerobic Digestion Plant, being built by Xergi and local firm BSG Ltd, will be one of the first to use new nitrogen-stripping technology. It should be operational by 2018.
Some 260,000 tonnes of waste are produced by chickens reared in Northern Ireland every year. Much is spread on fields as fertiliser, but it is rich in nitrogen and phosphorus and can pollute rivers and lakes as run-off.
A controversial plan by Rose Energy to build a £100m chicken litter incinerator close to Lough Neagh was refused planning permission in 2012 and in 2014.
The total cost of the Tully Quarry project is £23.3m, of which Invest NI is providing a repayable £7.4m loan, and £1.3m equity under the Sustainable Utilisation of Poultry Litter Scheme.
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It is expected to create 100 jobs during construction with a further 11 when the plant becomes operational.
Economy Minister Simon Hamilton called the project "an outstanding example of public sector and private investors coming together to support a new technology for sustainable agriculture and to grow our economy".
Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Minister Michelle McIlveen said: "This project has seen close collaboration between technology companies, government and funding bodies, including the Green Investment Bank.
"It is a testament to our commitment to deliver a sustainable future for our agriculture sector. Projects such as this will play an important role in helping the poultry sector to address an environmental challenge."