Pig farm uses synergies to generate energy


In the summer of 2016, a biogas plant at a pig farm in Varazdin, northern Croatia came online. The 250 kW plant suits the farm‘s cycle of food production, liquid manure utilisation and energy production in the form of power, heat and fertiliser. The slurry from a newly erected pigsty with 130 sows and 2800 porkers forms the basis for the energy production.

Even before joining the EU in 2013, Croatia had committed itself to the EU climate protection goals in order to establish the preconditions for obtaining subsidies for decentralised energy projects in rural areas. With these grants and fixed feed-in tariffs for green power, the Croatian government intends to increase the share of renewable energy by about 30% by 2030. The framework conditions for this are excellent, as Croatia has a generous supply of biomass. Biomass is one of the country‘s most important renewable energy sources. Thus, biogas plants can effectively contribute, not only to the utilisation of agricultural products, but also to the digestion of leftovers and waste from the food industry.

Fig. 1: A small 35 m³ input system for transferring solid substances such as maize silage.

Pig breeder Dalibor Vrček‘s family-managed farm also had ideal conditions for establishing a synergy of animal husbandry and biogas generation. In addition to the subsidy for the construction, the operator was able to base his investment decision on a fixed feed-in tariff of €0,19/kWh over the next 14 years. This income forms a solid basis for diversifying his business. The plant is expected to supply 2-million kWh a year. This, according to Vrček, gives the farm a third income together with agriculture, feed production, pig fattening and direct marketing.

The farm‘s infrastructure is highly suitable for the new business opportunity. Before the pig slurry is pumped into the 1716 m³ stainless-steel digester, it is stored in an existing upstream slurry store. In view of the liquid manure share, a small 35 m³ input system is sufficient for transferring the solid substances, such as maize silage. The entire digestate is used as fertiliser on the farm‘s fields, which amount to more than 300 ha. The smart heat utilisation of the 250 kW CHP unit serves as an additional source of income, thereby contributing to the efficiency of the plant’s operation.

Fig. 2: The 250 kW plant on the pig farm.

Tihomir Pajtak, who supervises the project on site as Weltec Biopower‘s sales partner, says the development of the family operation is a trend-setting concept in Croatia, as the focus on biogas for heat and power production is on the rise throughout the country. About 20 biomass and biogas plants with a total capacity of more than 21 MW are online and those are bound to grow, says Pajtak. Additional plants with a planned capacity of 67 MW have already been approved. The plant capacity is to be doubled within four years. Using reliable plant technology, the southeast European country is expected to achieve the EU’s climate protection goals.

Contact Ann Börries, Weltec Biopower, presse@weltec-biopower.de

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