Environmental guidance for your business in Northern Ireland & Scotland
Biomass energy accounts for around 85 per cent of the UK's renewable energy supply. Biomass refers to organic materials, such as wood, straw and energy crops, which can be used to generate electricity, heat and motive power. The energy is released by burning and fermentation.
You can only use certain biomass burners in smoke control areas.
If you are an appliance manufacturer, importer or distributor, you can apply for an exemption on the Defra website.
The payback period for biomass systems is generally five to 12 years, though this can be significantly shorter if free waste wood is available.
Biomas systems can be particularly effective when part of a Combined Heat and Power (CHP) system.
SEPA has produced guidance on the regulatory controls that apply to biomass burning to produce energy. This deals with issues relating to the PPC regulations, Waste incineration directive and Waste Management Licensing.
Anaerobic digestion is another method of converting biomass into energy. In this process, organic material is broken down by bacteria, in the absence of oxygen, to create methane-rich biogas. This can then be burned to generate heat and electricity. The solid waste from the process is called digestate and can be used in a similar way to compost.
The payback periods for anaerobic digestion plants vary widely, but could be between five and ten years.
If you anaerobically digest waste to generate gas for heat or electricity you must have a pollution prevention and control permit or waste management licence.
You must comply with waste regulations including the duty of care. If you are collecting and transporting other people's waste you will need a waste carriers licence.
The Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) and the Waste & Resources Action Programme have created a quality protocol for anaerobic digestate. If you follow the protocol, you can produce a high quality digestate which can be sold without waste handling controls.
For example, if it is not classed as a waste, you do not need to transport it using a waste carrier or with a waste transfer note.
You can use digestate without waste management controls if it complies with the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) position statement.
If you use parts of animals, products of animal origin or food and catering waste you must comply with animal by-product controls.
You must prevent your anaerobic digester causing an odour nuisance to your neighbours. You must design your digester, storage areas and delivery areas to minimise the escape of odour and liquids.
Reduce your digester's operating temperature and use a two-step digestion process by pasteurising your material first, to reduce odour problems.
Biomass and anaerobic digestion
Guidance - Noise and vibration management: environmental permits, Guidance - Noise and vibration management: environmental permits
Environmental Plans, Principles and Governance for Northern Ireland – Synopsis of Responses, Public responses to the Discussion Document: Environmental Plans, Principles and Governance
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