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UK Defence Minister opens first military airbase to be powered by green energy

In the United Kingdom (UK), the Royal Air Force (RAF) Marham, the home of the UK’s F-35 multi-role combat jets, is set to become the first military airbase to be powered by green electricity. Defence Minister Tobias Ellwood made the announcement on January 31, 2019, during a visit to a Norfolk biogas plant, where he officially opened the new site that will provide energy to the airbase.

Tobias Ellwood MP opens the new biogas facility which will power RAF Marham (photo courtesy Ministry of Defence).
On January 31, 2019, Tobias Ellwood MP opened a new biogas facility which will power
RAF Marham airbase in the UK (photo courtesy Ministry of Defence).

The biogas power facility, built by Future Biogas Ltd, will provide up to 95 percent of RAF Marham’s energy needs and save the Ministry of Defence (MOD) almost GBP300 000 annually. This project has been delivered by the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) with government and private sector colleagues.

RAF Marham is leading the way as Britain’s first green military airbase. The biogas fuel is a truly green and sustainable solution, helping us tackle climate change, support the local economy and save taxpayer money. I hope that this plant can act as a model and we can see more sustainable energy schemes rolled out across other military bases, Minister for Defence People and Veterans Tobias Ellwood MP said.

Using locally grown crops as feedstock, the biogas power plant will reduce the Ministry of Defence’s carbon emissions by 14 000 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) annually. The digestate from the anaerobic digestion process can then be dried and used as a biofertiliser to help grow local crops.

Public, private and military partnership

The plans have been in development since February 2015 and DIO, the part of the MOD which manages the Defence Estate, worked with the Crown Commercial Service (CCS), Future Biogas and energy company EDF to develop an electricity supply that is green and sustainable as well as providing financial savings.

This is an excellent example of how CCS can work with forward-thinking public sector partners like DIO, and suppliers like EDF and Future Biogas, to source power supply solutions for the Royal Air Force which provide resilience and strong green credentials, while boosting the local economy and providing energy security for the UK, said Sam Ulyatt, Buildings Strategic Commercial Director, Crown Commercial Services.

A feasibility assessment was undertaken by DIO to determine what benefits could be derived from this supply of clean energy. As well as saving money and reducing carbon emissions, it was determined that the new plant would increase power resiliency at RAF Marham by providing multiple pathways to electrical resources.

It’s fantastic to see the UK military join the green revolution. If we are to combat the imminent global threat of climate change, everyone, from all walks of life, needs to transition to renewable, sustainable energy as quickly as possible. The AD plant in Swaffham now powers a significant local institution. In doing so, it not only helps secure the energy supply of a strategic national asset but also takes the pressure off the local electrical infrastructure, which has been really struggling to keep up with growing regional demand, said Philipp Lukas, Managing Director,Future Biogas.

The project was sourced through frameworks put in place by the Crown Commercial Service, which helps the entire public sector to save time and money when buying common goods and services. CCS continues to work with the RAF on demand management and renewable energy.

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