UU trials crops to create renewable energy
United Utilities (UU) is trialling energy crops at its Leigh Wastewater Treatment Works to generate renewable energy as well as help control costs for customers. To get more use out of its land, UU has planted willow and maize on a small area of the treatment works.
The company said willow trees grow very quickly and, once dried, the wood can be sold as fuel for biomass boilers. Maize can be digested and used to generate biogas, which in turn can be used as fuel to generate renewable electricity and heat.
Sian Taylor, UU's business growth strategy manager, said: “Around the region we’ve got plenty of land that’s potentially suitable, and we’ve got the fertiliser in the form of the biosolids that are produced by the treatment process.
“We started the trial at Leigh earlier this year to see if the crops would take to our land, and if they did, whether the growth patterns were normal. We brought in the expertise of a contractor who grows energy crops on his own farm to identify the most suitable locations.
“The maize has been doing well but we’ve had some problems with fast-growing weeds affecting the willows. It’s a learning curve and we’re picking up some good lessons on how we can improve.”
The team is now going to plant more willow at another trial site over the coming months to see if their revised approach will be successful. If it is, UU hopes to roll the scheme out to other suitable sites.
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