What is Anaerobic Digestion?

Row of young plants - What is Anaerobic digestion

Green energy is the future of the world. However, while most people are familiar with hydroelectric power, solar energy, and wind power, not everyone has heard of anaerobic digestion. However, this type of energy is widespread, and it’s poised to become even more so, as more and more businesses look for cleaner and greener forms of energy to power their operations.

What is exactly Anaerobic Digestion?

The term anaerobic digestion isn’t something most people are familiar with, however, the process is actually fairly simple. Anaerobic digestion simply refers to how microorganisms break down biodegradable materials in the absence of oxygen. This process can happen naturally in certain soils, and when it does it releases biogases like methane.

When anaerobic digestion is used as a green energy source, it just means that people are harnessing this natural process, and using it to deliberately create energy.

So how does it work? Well, it starts by taking a waste product, and putting it into a digestor’s bin. It might be food waste like fruit peels and leftover meat, or it might be the poo left in the field by cows or sheep. As long as the material is biodegradable, it can be used in the process. Once the digestor is loaded with material, the oxygen is removed, and the heat is increased. The microorganisms in the bin then digest the biodegradable material, and the result is biogas. This biogas can either be used on the spot to create energy, or it can be refined and used in other applications such as vehicle engines. This process also leaves behind a nutrient-rich material that can be used as fertilizer which makes anaerobic digestion a good way to turn waste products into useful resources.

Anaerobic Digestion and The Smart Export Guarantee

While anaerobic digestion is a solid technology for any business that has a steady supply of biodegradable waste (farms in particular tend to get good use out of this technology), it also qualifies under the Smart Export Guarantee (or SEG). The SEG states that qualifying technologies that meet the standards of the Microgeneration Certification Scheme must be given a tariff from an energy provider as long as the technology exports power back for use by the grid.

What does that mean in plain language, though? Well, if you’re a business who installs an anaerobic digestor as a way to become more self-sufficient, and to produce more green energy, and you plug your energy-generating source into the grid, your energy provider will compare the amount of electricity you use to the amount that you generate. If you provided more than you used, then they will pay you for the energy you provided, thus turning investment in green energy into something that could (at least potentially) be profitable for a business willing to go green in a big way.

While the requirement to offer a tariff only applies to energy providers with more than 150,000 customers, the goal behind the SEG is quite clear; to provide incentive for individuals and businesses to invest in green energy to help decrease the use of fossil fuels. Businesses, in particular, often have the resources to generate a great deal of green energy, but it may not always be financially feasible for them to undertake such projects. Between tax credits, a general boost to a company’s image, and the ability to essentially sell spare energy created to the grid, the SEG hopes to boost participation all around the country.


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