Prince Charles is to provide an unlikely challenge to the “Big Six” energy companies as he prepares to open a renewable energy plant on his Duchy of Cornwall estate that could, if successful, be the blueprint for further power generation on the land.
The Prince, who is heavily committed to renewable energy on the estate, is to open the biogas plant in Dorset on Wednesday.
Its “anaerobic digestion” system will generate energy and renewable gas that will be fed into the National Grid, providing enough gas for up to 56,000 houses, as well as powering the site.
The use of anaerobic digestion plants is widespread in continental Europe, but not in the UK, although it is becoming more popular. The process involves sealing food and animal waste in tanks without oxygen, where the material is broken down by naturally occurring micro-organisms into biogas. The material left over can also be used as fertiliser.
The Prince is understood to have been interested in the technology for some time and hopes it can power the nearby village of Poundbury on the estate.
“It’s one step at a time, but the idea is that it is a pioneer project,” said a source close to the project. “Should Poundbury prove successful and economically viable, plants may be considered elsewhere.”
The plant has been built by JV Energen, a joint venture between the Duchy of Cornwall and three Dorset farmers, who will provide waste for the plant.
It is expected to produce 106 million cubic feet of methane a year.
The Duchy of Cornwall, a £728m land and property portfolio, consists of about 53,400 hectares of land across 23 counties. The prince set up the Duchy Originals brand out of his interest in organic farming.