The UK’s Environment Agency has given the go-ahead to a plan by Norfolk-based Banham Poultry to establish a renewable power plant that will use poultry by-products to generate electricity.

The £10m (US$18.2m) renewable power project is the first of its kind in the UK. The company said the project will safeguard 750 jobs at Banham Poultry by offering a sustainable solution to the problem of by-product disposal which, since BSE, has become an increasing cost to all meat and poultry businesses.

The project uses advanced technology, known as pyrolysis and gasification, which involves heating dried poultry by-products under contained, oxygen-free conditions to release a combustible gas which is then used to generate electricity.

The plant will be capable of handling up to 1,200 tonnes of material per week, producing 5.5 megawatts of renewable electricity, enough to supply households across the entire Attleborough area, where the plant will be built. 

“The spiralling costs of by-product disposal have dogged the entire livestock sector since BSE. These costs have already forced many companies out of business. By transforming animal by-products into clean, renewable energy, we believe this project is of strategic significance – not only for reducing waste and boosting renewable energy supplies, but also for the future competitiveness of our food and farming industries,” said company director Robin Goram.