The new £16.5 million EBRI development, funded jointly by Aston University and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), includes research suites, laboratories, and technology demonstration facilities. It also houses the only Pyroformer™/Gasifier bioenergy power plant currently operating in the UK, which will provide power, heating and cooling to the building as well as other parts of the university.
The Pyroformer is a groundbreaking bioenergy solution developed by EBRI, which uses multiple waste sources to generate cost-effective heat and power. The Pyroformer™ has no negative environmental or food security impacts. It uses multiple waste sources, avoiding the destruction of rainforests or the use of agricultural land for growing specialist bioenergy crops. In fact biochar – one of its by-products – can even be used as a fertiliser to increase crop yields.
‘We are aware that the UK will not meet its [carbon emissions] targets – and at an affordable cost – without new technologies, and that is why we have established our European Bioenergy Research Institute,’ says Professor Dame Julia King, Vice-Chancellor of Aston University.
‘We believe that we can take waste such as sludge, industrial castoffs, grass clippings from our parks and gardens, and even autumnal leaf fall, and turn it into a power source that by 2050 will have created a thermal ring of mini power plants around Birmingham,’ continues King. ‘EBRI is therefore a critical component in enabling the UK to become more energy efficient, and to reduce our current reliance on fossil fuels, imports, and volatile energy markets.’
‘We are delighted that our new facilities are now up and running, and that we have a functioning Pyroformer demonstration power plant installed onsite,’ says Professor Andreas Hornung, Director of the European Bioenergy Research Institute.
‘This new building development will significantly increase the capacity of our dedicated teams to produce world-class research and knowledge transfer in all aspects of bioenergy and technology development,’ continues Hornung. ‘We can also now provide even more collaboration opportunities for businesses to run trials and tests, evaluate waste sources, and consider combinations of bioenergy processes prior to investment.’
Bioenergy research has been taking place at Aston University since 1978, with EBRI established in 2007. EBRI conducts research into all aspects of bioenergy, from fundamental research through development, to deployment of innovative technologies, in collaboration with industry. It works with regional, national, and international businesses and organisations to help them realise opportunities from the high-growth bioenergy sector. EBRI has ERDF funding to provide free support, advice, and consultancy to businesses in the West Midlands.