Advertiser: Bio-fuel plan for motor factory

Swindon Advertiser reports that Honda is now looking at options for a Bio-fuel plant to power its South Marston factory.

Honda has started an experiment which could eventually see its South Marston factory powered by fast-growing African grass called miscanthus.

The plan is to use the low-maintenance grass that can reach three metres tall and which is already burnt alongside coal in some UK power stations.

The crop, known as Elephant Grass, has already been planted on 65 acres on site at South Marston, but experts are quick to point out that it could be 20 years before the factory could run independently of the national grid.

Obviously the Government is aware about possible power shortages in years to come,” said Paul Ormond, the general manager of PR and corporate affairs with at Honda.

“At Honda we are driven by environmental concerns and are constantly conscious of reducing our carbon footprint.

“We plan to build a boiler which is capable of producing between five and 30 megawatts by 2015 which will be fed by a biomass, or renewable energy crop.

“I don’t want people to think that we are planning to build a power station like Didcot. I think the boiler will probably be the size of an average house,” he added.

Honda has been experimenting with the elephant grass for some years both in this country and Africa.

Powering the Swindon plant will require more than just the 65 acres of miscanthus currently under cultivation on site.

Honda is seeking to do a deal with local farmers in long-term growing contracts to supply the factory with the crop.

“This is still at the feasibility study stage on a long-term project,” said Mr Ormond.

“If it all comes together then perhaps in 10 years’ time we might have generated enough power to heat and light the factory. And if that continues successfully then 10 years after that we might have sufficient power to run the factory.”

Honda is negotiating with local farmers for long-term contracts although some are reluctant to grow the elephant grass because it takes potash out of the soil, which costs a lot to replace. Even though it takes the crop three years to generate money, farmers like to have a regular price rather than an erratic one like wheat.

Jonathan Scurlock, chief adviser on renewable energy with the National Farmers Union, said farmers were nervous about locking up their land to grow biomass crops like miscanthus because there was too much risk.

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