00:00 Saturday 21 May 2011  Written by Leo McMAHON

Kinsale bio-waste project leads the way

KINSALE, the world's first Transition Town, is again leading the way with plans to develop Ireland's first community run and eco-friendly anaerobic digester (AD), a bio-waste treatment and recycling facility that will produce environmentally friendly fertiliser and generate energy, income, jobs and other benefits for both the town and its rural hinterland.

The project has recently been boosted by a grant of €37,500 from the Department of the Environment under its Rethink, Recycle, Remake (Rx3) programme towards a comprehensive feasibility study which will form the basis of a business plan that will make the project ready for the planning application stage.

It follows a successful application by local Green Party councillor, chairman of Transition Town Kinsale (TTK) and business coach Alan Clayton, along with AD consultant Vicky Heslop of Methaneogen and Stephen Hynes, an engineer who is already working on a project recycling sea lettuce as an energy source in West Cork.

In late 2009, a €10,000 pre-feasibility study was carried out by TTK, €9,000 (90%) of which was funded by West Cork Development Partnership, and the project was deemed feasible financially. A site on the edge of Kinsale has been earmarked. The unique AD project proposes to:

Collect bio-waste from commercial and domestic producers within a 15-mile radius of Kinsale and co-digest this with agricultural manure, resulting in the production of high quality fertiliser products with guaranteed markets.

Generate renewable heat and electric energy for local businesses, thus providing a sustainable and secure energy source for and owned by local people.

Reduce the amount of fuel and fertiliser being imported into Kinsale by replacing these with products produced by the AD.

Provide heat from a combined heat and power unit (CHP) to Henry Good Ltd, grain merchants, Farm Lane and reclaim low temperature heat from the process for use in a new horticultural enterprise and to export and sell electricity via the national grid, thereby reducing local demand for electricity from distant generators.

Reduce the cost of production of food on local farms by recycling nutrients normally lost to the environment or dumped on a landfill.

Reduce the environmental impact and cost of waste management and disposal and improve environmental conditions (e.g. air and water) around Kinsale and achieve a net reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

Reduce the amount of money leaving the local economy to purchase good and services.

Customers

Prospective customers will be local hotels, caterers, farmers, residents, Good's grain processing (site owner), a proposed new horticultural enterprise and an outlet for food waste. TTK will be the co-ordinator and will work with local community representatives, businesses and farming interests to raise the necessary investment and it's envisaged that suppliers will be shareholders in the enterprise.

A fact-finding study trip to Denmark or Norway where ADs work, will be organised and the permaculture faculty in Kinsale College of Further Education and existing horticultural businesses in the area will be approached to assist with finding someone who wants to operate a horticulture enterprise using the low temperature heat reclaimed from the process.

'Meetings have been held with local farmers and interest groups and a target market is clearly identified in what would be a unique sustainable community recycling project,' said Alan. 'The fact that the market is local, minimises bio-waste transport costs, maximises the benefit to suppliers with growing legislation-driven waste segregation and treatment costs and it retains the economic, social and environmental health benefits within the community.

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'Local, sustainable resilience to global energy price instability is necessary to ensuring sustainable recycling in Ireland. This project, the first of its kind at community level in Ireland, should be replicable in many urban communities in Ireland, thereby increasing the amount of recycling of bio-waste nutrients into valuable fertiliser products', he stated.

Jobs

It's envisaged that at least one full and one part-time job will be created at the AD plus additional work for a slurry contractor and the opportunity for a new horticultural enterprise employing two to three people. The AD also has the potential to be a new eco-tourism attraction for Kinsale and could save local farmers up to €70,000 per annum in production costs since the money would no longer be required to import artificial fertiliser, would reduce greenhouse emissions and nitrogen in the water and odours and improve fishing and air quality.

TTK, which has to date invested €12,500 of its own money into the project, is anxious that a decision on the feasibility of the project will come early, having negotiated a site with Goods which has already gone to tender on a different power plant proposal but is genuinely interested in the AD proposal.

As outlined in the application, specific works have been outlined for the next four months to progress the project including working with all local interests, drawing up technical specifications and full business plan, identifying finance, checking legalities and legislation, securing the site and having everything ready to invite tenders for a contract and submitting of a planning application to Cork County Council.

Speaking at the recent meeting of Kinsale Town Council, Cllr Clayton said there would be a full public consultation process if the feasibility study was successful and he saw no reason why the AD for Kinsale couldn't be replicated in neighbouring West Cork towns. The grant was 75% of a total of €50,000 and TTK would have to fund the remaining €12,500. Six people were now working on the project.

Mayor Michael Frawley said it was great news and other councillors also welcomed the grant aid for TTK, an award-winning community initiative for transition from an oil and fossil fuel dependent lifestyle to sustainable alternatives.

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