Local farm business celebrates milestone

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When a local Hillsborough farmer’s son, Mr Alistair Dickson, embarked on building an Anaerobic Digester plant, he had no idea the journey that he and his family would have to go on to ensure that the project was able to make it over the line.

Starting in May 2012 Alistair believed that in order to ensure the future sustainability of the family farm that the best way forward was to develop a large, mainstream Anaerobic Digester.

He was able to consider a 500kw plant to produce enough renewable energy from animal slurry and energy crops via a combined heat and power generator (CHP Unit) to power their pig farm, with surplus energy being sold back into the grid.

Unfortunately, like many farmers and locals attempting to break through into the renewables market, the project faced many planning and infrastructure issues which had the potential to derail the entire project.

Director of Avodah Renewable Energies Ltd, Mr Alistair Dickson explained: “In the early days we faced multiple issues in relation to planning policies and roads, and were forced to rethink the projects core capabilities and size due to potential restrictions. The biggest issue was then to get a grid connection from NIE, which proved to be the most frustrating and expensive process I had ever encountered.

“Having sourced additional land and products for feedstock and having spent considerable monies, it was at this stage that I felt that the plant would never be built and that the project would collapse due to the time constraints on return for investment.”

With help from MLA Brenda Hale, who organised meetings with local planners, NIE and Stormont Ministers, the project finally began to move forward.

The Avodah renewable project has been instrumental in creating new and maintaining over 120 sustainable jobs both within Lagan Valley and further afield.

These jobs include construction, engineering, consultancy, planning and most importantly the farming industry.

The £3.1 million investment will continue to benefit the local area and help maintain not only their own farming needs but the needs of many farmers in that area.

Avodah’s aim now is to look to the future, providing the local community with a sustainable environmentally friendly renewable service.