Clean energy supporting sustainable growth of award-winning British produce

A wide-ranging low carbon energy solution is helping support the growth of British salads, tomatoes and speciality peppers sustainably over the next 20 years.

A 1.65-megawatt steam generating biomass CHP plant, a 1MW biomass heat boiler and a 3MW reserve gas peaking engine, supply the heat and electricity needed to support the 15-acre Villa Nursery, which supplies produce to Asda, Lidl, Waitrose and Tesco.

The holistic energy solution has been financed and developed by clean energy group AMP. The CHP plant produces 8 million KW hours of heat each year, which is equivalent of 220 days heat 24/7. The heat is used to help support the growth of 14 acres of peppers under glass.

AMP is financing the energy plant over a 20-year contract through an ESCO, also known as an Energy Supply Agreement with the nursery simply paying for the heat and power it uses. This has included developing and installing the energy plant, as well as taking care of its maintenance over a 20-year term.

The low carbon measures have reduced Villa Nursery’s gas spend by £200,000 and cut CO2 by more than 1800 tonnes per year.

Villa Nursery proprietors and brothers Michael and Felice Gibilaro have developed their Lea Valley produce business from the modest, 1-acre growing facility to the highly successful business it is today, putting sustainable growth at the heart of everything they do.

Michael Gibilaro, of Villa Nursery, in Roydon, Essex, said:
“One of our largest costs here is energy. In order to be competitive with other countries like Spain, which has free heat, we need lower cost, sustainable energy, to both increase business productivity and supply the UK market with UK produce. Working with AMP, that is what we have achieved.”

Felice Gibilaro added:
“AMP is a great partner for us – they invest in biomass heat and a grid electricity peaking plant and we benefit from significant savings which we can invest back into our business.  Knowing that our product line is produced using clean, low carbon energy gives confidence to our customers and the end user consumer.”

AMP Clean Energy believes Villa Nursery is a great example of good practice which other nurseries could benefit from. Only 18 per cent of peppers sold in our supermarkets are grown in the UK with the rest being imports.

Stuart Reid, Managing Director (Projects) at AMP Clean Energy, said: “This is a wide-ranging low carbon solution which provides Villa Nursery with cost effective, low carbon heat, and reduces their exposure to volatile fossil fuel prices.

“Villa Nursery is a good example of how we can support industrial heat and power users through our fully funded energy centres over the long term. This is a model of best practice which could benefit growers in the surrounding area and across the UK.”