Agri-Environmental Technologies

Area of Expertise:

The Environment and Renewable Energy Centre (EREC) based at AFBI Hillsborough assists the agri-food industry to maximise the potential of renewable energy and support technology transfer activities.

Research programme

A wide ranging research programme into sources of renewable energy from agriculture and forestry is built round the facilities of the EREC. This includes:-

  • Short Rotation Coppice (SRC) willow production with bioremediation of dirty water.
  • Improving and evaluating the agronomy of Miscanthus to achieve higher DM yields
  • Storage and utilisation of biomass crops
  • The carbon footprint of agricultural enterprises
  • Combustion and emission characteristics of varying biomass sources
  • The effect of the incorporation of renewable energy schemes on the carbon footprint of the AFBI Hillsborough site
  • Demonstration of energy saving design and technology
  • SRC crop management and harvesting regimes
  • Investigation into further exploitation  of the multifunctionality of woody energy crops eg, riparian strips, disease barriers, carbon sinks
  • Demonstration of other renewable energy technologies.
  • Anaerobic digestion of animal manure.

Biomass and solar sources

The EREC delivers heat and electricity to the site from biomass and solar sources. The main sources of biomass are short rotation coppice willow, forest residues and miscanthus which are converted to heat in dedicated biomass heat systems. The anaerobic digestion of manures produces biogas which is converted to electricity and heat by a small combined heat and power plant (CHP). A total of 40kW electricity can be generated for the site by the CHP and solar PV panels and over 500 kW of heat can be generated from the EREC which is delivered around the site through a district heating system. Hot water is also supplied to the dairy parlour by dedicated thermal solar panels.

Visiting groups

The EREC also provides visiting groups (Farmers, Industry, Government, Educational etc) with a wide range of information on many aspects of renewable energy production and its use in addition to conducting scientific research on the aspects most closely related to agriculture.  It is estimated that approximately 50% of the energy usage at the AFBI, Hillsborough site will be derived from renewable energy within the near short term.


Contact: Renewable energy group