Waste products may not be the first thing we think of when we look at power, but as the future of fossil fuels is more widely discussed, steam and waste are being highlighted as a source to consider.

High in nitrates and phosphorus, chicken waste has typically been used as a farming fertiliser. This has, however, come with its own issues, such as water-course contamination from run-off, as well as transportation costs.

The biomass industry has developed strongly over the past few years, and as the technologies advance, so too does the number of products that can be burned as fuel for heating. Now, thanks to advances in technology, chicken waste, or litter, has the potential to become the fuel warming the chickens that created it.

The UK government in particular has taken an interest in the potential of biomass to contribute to the UK’s CO2 emissions targets, and has introduced the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) to encourage more businesses to invest in biomass heating systems.

Angelo Giambrone, business development manager for Spirax Sarco UK said: “The RHI was first launched for domestic properties in 2014 and is the first of its kind in the world..

“For chicken farmers, for example, it’s like the cherry on top of an already sweet deal. Not only are they burning animal waste as an inexpensive source of fuel, but they also receive money from the government in the form of a quarterly payment.

“You can’t stick a woodchip boiler in the back garden and claim the benefit. You have to be able to demonstrate that the biomass installation is making a valid contribution to your energy requirements.”

The role of steam

Industries that implement biomass have an opportunity to increase the RHI that they receive, while generating a small amount of power for their plant.

Angelo said: “Generating steam instead of hot water in a biomass system allows the latest technology in electrical power generation to be used.

"This production of electricity from a ‘renewable’ fuel then allows users to claim a doubling of their RHI benefit. Furthermore, once the power is generated, you can convert the steam back into the hot water that you need.”

“Combustion advances and government initiatives have now brought the hi-tech world of steam to a whole new group of users, who stand to benefit in a big way."

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