Letter From Europe: The law that changed the German countryside

Biogas production from corn, grass and cereal wholecrop harvests swallowed up over 800,000 acres of this country’s farmland this year – and income from biogas electricity was beating earnings from milk production


Only a year or two ago seeing a farmyard biogas production plant when driving through
the German countryside was so unusual that it called for a stop and a chat with the farmer if he happened to be around. Most were on cattle and pig farms at that time. Fermenting the manure and collecting the produced methane for running a gas motor
and generator was providing electric current for the farmhouse and farm buildings. Then came an innovative renewable energy law from Berlin that promised farmers a fair price if the biogas electricity was fed straight into the mains network – actually a tick more per kilowatt than the price householders had to pay for their current. This triggered a revolution on the land. By last year there were some 3,500 biogas plants producing a total 5 billion kiloWatt (kWh) hours. And a 30 per cent output expansion is expected for 2007!

Better Farming December 2007