Farmers have an important role to play in the production of renewable energy as well as growing food, according to unions leaders.

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The claim comes as a planned anaerobic digestion (AD) unit on the Euston Estate - described by representatives as an “exciting new project” - looks to complete the last small hurdle to allow it to pump gas to the main grid.

The unit on Home Farm, between Bury St Edmunds and Thetford will be fed with maize and sugar beet grown on the Strutt & Parker Farms and the Euston Estate together with some manures.

About 90% of the biogas made by the breaking down of organic matter will be injected into the national grid with the remaining 10% used to run a 250kw generator on the farm.

An application submitted to St Edmundsbury Borough Council has now asked for a pipeline from the unit, which has already been approved, to run around water meadows to the east of Fakenham Magna on higher and drier ground.

Edward Keymer, of Keymer Cavendish chartered surveyors, said confirmation of the pipe’s route to the main near Lanketts Grove was the final piece of detail required.

“It’s an exciting new project that will be starting soon,” he said. “And unusually, the majority of its output will go straight into the gas grid. Only a very small proportion will be used for generating electricity.”

The unit at Euston will be the latest in the region, with one at Risby already operating.

Brian Finnerty, spokesman for NFU (National Farmers Union) East: “We think there is an important role for farmers as generators of renewable energy as well as the role they already fulfil as food producers. There is an opportunity to contribute to this country’s energy needs and AD is one of the ways they are able to do that.”

Mr Finnerty, who said that there are more AD plants were in the pipeline, claimed it was possible the plants could in future deal with domestic waste.

He added: “With AD it’s really important that you get the mixture right and certainly there’s a role for waste food as well as animal manures and maize as well that goes into an AD plant.”

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