After biscuit bonanza, Prince of Wales now making gas
Published 18/11/2012 | 05:00
He has already found commercial success with his own brand of biscuits and fine foods, but now the Prince of Wales is to venture into the energy market by supplying gas to people's homes.
Britain's Prince Charles is due to officially open a new biogas plant on land owned by his Duchy of Cornwall estate in Dorset in a project that will be able to provide gas for up to 56,000 homes.
He hopes the project, among the first commercial biogas plants to feed gas back into the UK's national grid, will provide a model that can be copied around the country to provide a network of plants providing gas to communities.
It will mark a major shift in the Prince's commercial interests after he sold his Duchy Originals food brand to Waitrose.
The plant, which has been funded by the Duchy of Cornwall, will use a process known as anaerobic digestion to break down food waste from a nearby chocolate factory, a breakfast-cereals producer and a potato-processing plant along with maize crops from local farmers.
It is hoped the plant will produce more than 106 million cubic feet of methane each year – enough to provide gas to the Prince of Wales's model village of Poundbury on the outskirts of Dorchester, Dorset, and homes in the surrounding area.
The biogas plant has now been connected up to the national grid to allow gas to be sold on the open market.
During the winter, when gas use is highest, it could heat and be used for cooking in 4,000 homes while in the summer this could increase to 56,000 homes.
Andrew Phillips, rural director of finance at the Duchy of Cornwall, said: "The Prince has been very interested in this project from the word go and the Duchy has provided the funding for it.
"As time has gone on, the Prince's interests and the world's concerns have moved on to encompass sustainable energy.
"The plant has spun from that and a desire to provide energy for the Poundbury development."
Among those sending waste to the plant are Dorset Cereals and the House of Dorchester chocolate factories. The waste is fed through a series of containers as it is digested by bacteria and the gas extracted, purified and then sent into the national grid.
Around one-fifth of the gas will also be used to generate electricity for around 500 homes and for the plant itself.
There are around 88 biogas plants currently in the UK, but most are small scale and are used to generate electricity or provide heating for factories or farm estates.