At Bulb, we think it’s really important that you know where your energy comes from. We buy 100% renewable electricity and 10% green gas from a number of independent, renewable generators from across the UK. Green gas - or biomethane - is renewable gas produced from organic matter like farm waste or manure. And that’s where the Mackintoshes come in. With the help of Future Biogas, they built a green gas site on their farm in South Yorkshire. See their story here:
Willie and Lynda Mackintosh live and work on Huggin Farm in South Yorkshire. For the Mackintoshes, their work is their life. Lynda says the couple live and breathe farming. They don’t draw any lines between their work and their hobbies. So it’s just as well that they both believe farming is the best job in the world. They even have the T-shirts that say so. They make a great team. Lynda says that her husband is the creative one who comes up with the ideas. She’s the one who manages to make everything work in practice. They’re real doers - just the kind of people we want as Bulb generators.
'A giant cow's stomach'
Seven years ago, Willie had a bright idea. And together, he and Lynda have made it work. They decided to build an anaerobic digester plant on the farm. It turns farm waste and crops into green gas. The green gas feeds into the National Grid for use by people at home. It’s the renewable alternative to pumping natural gas out of the Earth. And Willie and Lynda were ahead of the game: their plant was one of the first biogas plants of its kind in the country.
So, how does it work? You can think of anaerobic digestion as a giant cow’s stomach. We’ve actually written about the process before.
Maize grown on Huggin Farm and other local farms, as well as waste from sugar beet goes into the digester at one end. Inside an oxygen-free tank, the maize silage is constantly agitated to mix it together with bacteria. Inside the digester, Lynda says, it’s ‘constantly bubbling away, as if you were digesting food.’ But unlike with a cow’s stomach, the biogas that emerges from the other end is put to good use. Instead of escaping into the atmosphere, the gas rises to the surface of the digester, where it’s stored in the plant’s large domes. The next step is to clean the gas and remove any moisture. Unlike anything that emerges from a cow’s rear end, it doesn’t actually smell. So, an odour is added to the gas before it heads off to people’s homes via the national grid. The bi-product from the process, or what’s left of the maize, is a fertiliser used by local farms to grow new crops. It’s a closed-loop, renewable way of generating green gas. And we love it.
Farming for the future
We love working with people like the Mackintoshes. Green gas is a nascent industry in the UK - only 0.5% of gas in the UK comes from renewable sources - so we see them as real pioneers. By choosing to be with Bulb, our members help to support people like Willie and Lynda who are contributing to a cleaner, greener future.
At Huggin Farm, the biogas plant is one part of a working family farm growing maize and sugar beet. It’s another way for the Mackintoshes to get the most out of the land and crops they grow. As Willie Mackintosh says, knowing the family has a business that’s viable means that they can sustain the farm for future generations. It’s great to see that generating renewable energy can be part of that. Here at Bulb, we’re trying to do something similar - make the energy we supply and use sustainable for the future. We think it’s a pretty good aim to have.