The ammonia reduction grant scheme was launched this month as part of the government’s efforts to help to reduce the volume of ammonia emissions to atmosphere from the agricultural sector.
Conolly McCausland, from Bruton Knowles’ Rural Property Services Team, said: “Although many of us are extremely sceptical of statistics, it is stated that in 2014 over 80% of all ammonia emissions came from agriculture. While Ammonia is apparently not a greenhouse gas, it is a major pollutant and is proven to have significant adverse effects on human health.”
The grant’s aim is to help with the cost of covering slurry stores either using floating or self-supporting covers. Covering your slurry store will have many cost saving as well as environmental benefits, including rainwater capture resulting in lower storage and field application costs; reducing the loss of nitrogen, therefore improving the input quality of the slurry as a fertiliser and, of course, reducing ammonia emissions with consequent reductions in odour and improvement in air quality.
“There are many forms of slurry store cover which will conform to the grant eligibility criteria but none as interesting as the ‘lagoonQUBE’. The lagoonQUBE is a concept designed and developed here in the West Country and while it may not be as cheap as some of the other options, it does have the long term benefit of providing a return to the farm business.”
The simple view of the concept is a floating hexagonal cover on the surface of the store which collects both rainwater and the gases bubbling up through the slurry. The rainwater is pumped either to a rainwater store or to a soakaway and the gas is used to heat water or generate electricity.
Conolly said: “Collecting and storing the rainwater alone is helpful but if the biogas can be used to heat water for wash-down in the parlour or even hot water for mixing milk powder in the calf rearing unit it could show some significant savings for a business. Furthermore, the biogas can be used to heat radiators in the farmhouse and with a few minimal alterations to your gas regulator can also be used in your gas cooker.”
Qube Renewables, the designers, claim their figures show a 5 year payback. Alice Bayfield at Qube said: “For floating covers on slurry stores and lagoons, the current payment rate being offered by the grant is £11.20 per square meter, giving farmers a huge discount on the cost of installing a cover that harvests rainfall, potentially reducing the size of your lagoon by 1/3, as well as utilising the biogas produced naturally for use as an energy fuel. The grant contribution could reduce the costs of a passive lagoonQUBE by approximately 20%, showing that the average payback of 5 years on most projects could be reduced to just 4 years.”
He concluded: “The grant is open to any dairy or livestock farmers in England and will be overseen by Natural England. Annoyingly, it is only open until 31st January 2017, so, assuming you fulfil the eligibility criteria you will need to get your skates on.”