We told you already about wind, solar and tidal-energy technologies, so now its time to go down and get dirty. Biowaz from Norway offers a biogas plant, and their target customers are farms and agricultural businesses. That might seem awfully far away from being Cleantech, though if you know that over 49% of European Union subsidies go into the agricultural sector – that were close to EUR 50 billion in 2006 – you might realize that there is a huge market.
The concept is as easy as it is beautiful: Farms, especially livestock farms, produce huge amounts of organic waste and manure. The manure and organic waste are usually collected in storage tanks, and might be used as class B fertilizers on fields. However, this “garbage” has more potential. It can, through the process of anaerobic digestion, be transformed into biogas, which consists of approximately 60% methane gas. The methane gas can be used to produce heat and electricity, or as fuel in cars.
Let me explain a bit more the beauty of this concept, and how far it can go. A normal livestock farm in Scandinavia has somewhere about 60 cows, which produce enough manure per year to equal 80.000 kWh. That in turn is enough energy to power three to four houses for a year. But it doesn’t stop with manure, you can take this concept further and smart farmers can open up new revenue streams. Organic waste from communities can also be digested by these plants, and as cities need to pay to have their waste on a landfill a smart farmer charges less than the landfill for taking the organic waste. A cycle in a Biowaz reactor takes 28 days, and the biggest one can process 2000 m³ per year. In case you’re wondering what happens with the solid waste which comes out of a reactor, well, that is class A organic fertilizer. Our clever farmer would use it on his fields or sell it. The gas he can use to heat and power his house, and if there’s a feed in tariff he even can make money with his electricity.
Which brings me back to Biowaz. The company was established in 2006 and employes four persons. In 2009 a turnover of EUR 300k is estimated, and for 2010 they aim to quadruple this number. While it may seem low, it are good numbers when one knows that they launched the first commercial reactors earlier this year. The biggest investors in the company are Gaviota Holding AS and Aic Holding AS, and The Research Council of Norway, Enova, Innovation Norway and UMB, the University of Live Sciences, are partners and supporters of the company. The company is looking for further potential investors, to facilitate a faster market penetration. What is special about Biowaz is that their technology has substantial lower investment cost, is easy to install and maintain, and here in the Nordics farmers can get a 30% investment grant to help them with financing of the reactor. The complete system consists of the tanks and a technique container, and a suitable Combined Heat and Power generator can be added. Usually these kind of plants need specialists for the building process, however, Biowaz developed their product in a way that the farmer himself can construct the reactor, and a local plumber can connect the pipelines.
Quite obviously I am very excited about this technology. I think its such great technology that I am surprised that only so few farmers in Finland pick up the technology, less then 20 is what I read the last time. Biowaz seems to have realized the potential of this technology, and made it easy for farmers to build a reactor, thanks to their module-based components. It seems they are targeting primarily the Nordics, and are planning to expand to China as well. Personally I think German, French and Polish farmers should be a good market as well, since they still do have substantial amounts of agriculture in these societies. Because the agricultural sector is struggling with low prices for their products, the possibility to enter the energy production market as a side business could mean that farmers could once again rise to valued members of the society. I do hope that Biowaz succeeds with their goal to make the view of a biogas reactor on a farm as common as a tractor.