In August 2010 became operational a cogeneration plant for the production of biogas from biomass. The plant has an electrical output of 1 MW. This plant, through the anaerobic digestion of biomass and livestock manure produced on-site, generates Biogas which is used to power an endothermic engine for the production of approximately 8.500.000 kWh of electricity per year, all of which is fed into the national grid and corresponding to the power needs of 10.000 households. The CO2 emissions saved from fossil fuels equals round 4700 tons/year.
The plant has been built with innovative systems to improve its output and to minimise the environmental impact of the new system. The process of generating biogas from biomass complies with all legal requirements on atmospheric and noise emissions. Furthermore it generates around 15,000 tonnes/year of digestate, the by-product of anaerobic fermentation of biomass by mesophilic bacteria which is responsible for digesting the waste and producing biogas.
This quantity of digestate almost entirely covers the farm’s needs, and therefore it no longer requires chemical fertiliser.
Fertiliser spreading is carried out by pumping the digestate through a special network of pipes buried under the fields. The semi-liquid fertiliser is injected into the soil using special equipment. This technique minimises energy consumption (diesel for tractors) compared with traditional fertiliser spreading methods (tankers) or the use of chemical fertilisers.
The farm has also installed an underground remote heating network that utilises the thermal energy derived from cooling the endothermic engine. This network heats a number of the residential properties, as well as all of the farm structures.
From 2010, New Holland Agriculture, a world leader of agricultural mechanisation, is partner of La Bellotta for the development of the Energy Independent farm concept, launched in 2009 at the SIMA agricultural show in Paris and awarded with the Innovation Gold Medal. This concept is based on the idea of using agricultural residues such as surplus straw, maize stover and husks, animal manures and slurries in order to generate energy which will feed the farm activities and machinery. The second generation prototype T6 Methane Power tractor currently being tested in the fields of the La Bellotta farm - represents a key step towards this virtuous cycle of energy independence since it is fueled by methane which has 80% lower polluting emissions than a standard Diesel tractor and if bio-methane is used - that is methane derived from biomass which could be produced on the farm - the tractor’s global carbon impact is virtually zero.