Anaerobic Digestion in Germany is quiet, as far as selling at home goes. Very few new local German AD plants are in development currently (2019). The German Anaerobic Digestion Equipment industry is active, but is mostly making biogas equipment for export. The internal market is flat and likely to remain so for some time.
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German Plant Number Stagnation Not Typical Within EU
In contrast, the prospects for biogas in Europe overall look bright, with conservative estimates pointing to a tenfold increase in production by 2030. However, over the next 10 years the extent of biogas development will vary enormously between EU states.
Nation was an Early AD Adopter
Germany was an early starter in anaerobic digestion and has over 10,000 biogas plants, the majority of which are still operating although subsidies have largely ceased from the German government.
In Germany, the biogas sector saw a boom in the first decade of this century. That took place when the government became one of the first to provide a subsidised feed-in tariff for renewable electricity.
The idea was to support Combined Heat and Power (CHP) generation as well and has been implemented on many AD plant schemes. District hot-water heating for blocks of flats and industrial heating had been successful in the eastern block countries, and the adoption of CHP is very green, due to reduced energy wastage.
Diesel from Food Crops Once Seen As a “Climate Change Saviour”
It was a time when the idea that making renewable diesel fuel from food crops was also popular.
The theory was that using food crops like maize, to make ethanol (through a chemical process), which could be added to the diesel in forecourt pumps, would make fossil-fuel diesel greener.
But, that public opinion was soon to change. Such a large number of anaerobic digestion plants were built in Germany, using maize as their primary feedstock, that concern arose that the demand might raise food prices generally.
Feed-In Tariff Scrapped by German Government in 2014
Nevertheless, the scheme did allow the German Biogas Industry to develop technological solutions successfully. Today (2019), biogas represents about 90% of the country’s renewable electricity generation.
Since 2014, when there was criticism of the costs and environmental impact of the subsidy, the German AD Industry has looked abroad for business. Most biogas plants internationally now contain at their heart German sourced heavy equipment. Similarly, Germany now supplies most of the monitoring equipment the biogas industry uses.
No Big Ambitions for Biogas in Germany
To quote Susanna Pflüger of the European Biogas Association:
“As soon as the feed-in tariff was removed in 2014, the commissioning of new biogas plants started slowing down. “So. Yes, we have still around 10,000 biogas plants in Germany but the number is not really increasing and Germany doesn’t have big ambitions for biogas or biomethane in the future”.
Other nations look on in envy of the dominance of German biogas technology in global commercial biogas plants. It is a prime example of how a subsidy which might be unpopular at the time, can reap enormous future benefits when it allows a leading nation to develop a mature technology ahead of competitor nations.
More on the German Anaerobic Digestion Scene from Around the Web
Wikipedia Illustrates German AD Plant Design of Mid 2000s
Farm-based maize silage digester located near Neumünster in Germany, 2007 – the green, inflatable biogas holder is shown on top of the digester. Right: Two-stage, low solids, UASB digestion component of a mechanical biological treatment system near Tel Aviv; the process water is seen in balance tank and sequencing batch reactor, 2005. via en.wikipedia.org
AD Industry Gives Back to the Communities Where they are Installed
Renewable energy installations, and bioenergy in particular, are praised with giving a lot back to the communities where they are installed. Apart from jobs – there are 119,900 people employed in the bioenergy sector in Germany – they add to the districts’ commercial tax income, often generate income from land leases, bring business to local companies, and save on expenses for imported fossil fuels. Kern says that Neuhardenberg, a village close to the Polish border with a population of 2,700 and sandy, low-yield soils, is seeing just such benefits from Odega’s new plant.
Germany has Embarked on the Quest to Decarbonise its Economy
Germany’s project to decarbonise its economy (the Energiewende or energy transition) while at the same time quitting nuclear power has so far focused mainly on the electricity sector. Renewables covered roughly a third of the country’s power consumption in 2015. But while wind and solar PV fluctuate with the weather, posing logistical challenges for the grid, biomass could be controllable in much the same way as conventional power sources. As a rule, biomass is used to fuel small combined heat and power (CHP) plants, meaning it’s also making a significant contribution to a shift to renewables in the heating sector – which has so far lagged behind power in the race to ditch fossil fuels. via www.cleanenergywire.org
Biogas Energy Potential
Currently less then one percent of the potential benefits from AD are being used.
Reasons for this include the obstacles such as the legislative framework and the lack of economic incentives for potential investors. Countries like Denmark, Germany, Austria and Sweden promote effective mechanisms to produce biogas from organic wastes by political measurements. via www.eubia.org
Utilization of Wet Organic Wastes from Agriculture and Industry
Anaerobic treatment processes are especially suited for the utilization of wet organic wastes from agriculture and industry as well as for the organic part of source-separated household wastes. Anaerobic degradation is a very cost-effective method for treating biogenic wastes because the formed biogas can be used for heat and electricity production and the digester residues can be recycled to agriculture as a secondary fertilizer. Anaerobic technology will also be used for the common treatment of wastes together with renewable energy crops in order to reduce the CO2-emissions according the Kyoto protocol. Various process types are applied in Germany which differ in material, reaction conditions and in the form of the used reactor systems.
The widespread introduction of anaerobic digestion in Germany has shown that biogenic organic wastes are a valuable source for energy and nutrients. Anaerobic waste treatment is done today in approx. biogas plants on small farm scale as well as on large industrial scale with the best beneficial and economic outcome. Due to some new environmental protection acts which promote the recycling of wastes and their utilization for renewable energy formation it can be expected that several hundreds new biogas plants will be built per year in Germany. In order to use the synergetic effects of a combined fermentation of wastes and energy crops new process types must be developed in order to optimize the substrate combinations and the process conditions for maximum biodegradation. via www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
Importance of Anaerobic Digestion
Anaerobic digestion is the most important method for the treatment of food waste because of its techno-economic viability and environmental sustainability. The use of anaerobic digestion technology generates biogas and preserves the nutrients which are recycled back to the agricultural land in the form of slurry or solid fertilizer. The relevance of biogas technology lies in the fact that it makes the best possible utilization of food wastes as a renewable source of clean energy.
A biogas plant is a decentralized energy system, which can lead to self-sufficiency in heat and power needs, and at the same time reduces environmental pollution. Thus, the benefits of anaerobic digestion of food waste includes climate change mitigation, economic benefits and landfill diversion opportunities.
Anaerobic digestion has been successfully used in several European and Asian countries to stabilize food wastes, and to provide beneficial end-products. Sweden, Austria, Denmark, Germany and England have led the way in developing new advanced biogas technologies and setting up new projects for conversion of food waste into energy.
Anaerobic digestion of sewage sludge is wastewater treatment facilities is a common practice worldwide. Food waste can be co-digested with sewage sludge if there is excess capacity in the anaerobic digesters. An excess capacity at a wastewater treatment facility can occur when urban development is overestimated or when large industries leave the area.
By incorporating food waste, wastewater treatment facilities can have significant cost savings due to tipping fee for accepting the food waste and increasing energy production. via www.bioenergyconsult.com