Ecotricity logotype
/Our news/2022/Ecotricity explains: Boosting biodiversity at our green gas mills

Our news

Article tags
Article tags
  • energy
  • Green energy
  • nature
Browse archives
Our news

Ecotricity explains: Boosting biodiversity at our green gas mills

Press enquiries

If you are a journalist with a media enquiry, please contact our Press Office on 01453 761 318 or you can email pressoffice@ecotricity.co.uk

For all other general enquiries, please call 01453 756 111 or email home@ecotricity.co.uk.

10 Mar 2022

We’re in a climate emergency. Today, only around 30% of our electricity is generated by truly renewable means – technically, it could be 100% by now if the political will was there.

Electricity is only half the story. Heating our homes and powering industry with fossil gas is one of the biggest sources of carbon emissions. How can we slash the climate impact of heating without scrapping tens of millions of gas boilers?

The answer, of course, is to make green gas from grass. Building green gas mills, as we’re doing right now near Reading, is the quickest and cheapest way to replace fossil gas use in Britain.

What’s more, our green gas mills are fed with species-rich herbal leys, which help boost biodiversity, lock in carbon and improve soil quality on the marginal grasslands or replaced monoculture grasslands that we plan to use.

What is a species-rich herbal ley?

Herbal leys are grasslands made up of legumes, herbs and grasses. The exact species mixtures will depend on local soil conditions but we’ll typically be planting various types of clovers, sainfoin, chicory, lucence, birdsfoot trefoil, along with grasses such as Timothy, ryegrass and cocksfoot.

Species-rich herbal ley
How will green gas mills boost biodiversity?

Biodiversity has declined dramatically across much of lowland Britain because of the increase in both intensive arable systems and monoculture grasslands.

Our species-rich herbal leys will both feed our green gas mills and support a much higher density of insects, bees and other pollinators than any intensively managed grassland or arable field, thanks to the lack of artificial pesticides and agrochemicals.

The diverse range of species in the herbal leys means that there will always be plants flowering between cuts. They’ll attract insects for a variety of birds, from skylarks and yellow wagtails to whitethroats and grey partridges, as well as bats.

Bumble bees and many solitary bees have declined dramatically in intensive grasslands and the introduction of clovers and other legumes into farmed landscapes will provide a significant source of pollen and nectar which may help to slow that decline.

Insects and insect larva will also provide food for voles, shrews and mice, which in turn may be prey for mammalian predators such as weasels and stoats, as well as birds of prey such as kestrels, buzzards, harriers and owls.

How do the herbal leys improve the soil?

Plants capture carbon from the atmosphere and transfer it to the soil, where it’s utilised by the soil biology to unlock vital nutrients which would otherwise be unavailable to the growing plants.

The greater diversity of plants in a ley, the greater the diversity of soil biology, which in turn produces greater yield and therefore more carbon captured. Just a small increase in soil carbon content can have a huge impact on its ability to hold moisture, something that’s increasingly important in our hot dry summers.

We won’t need to use artificial fertilisers thanks to our use of clovers to accumulate nitrogen and the use of the left over digestate from the green gas mill as soil conditioner.

Clovers helping bees
How will the green gas mills work alongside existing farmland?

The species-rich herbal leys will be planted on marginal grassland or replaced monoculture grassland close to the green gas mills. In some places, they could be used as a 4/5-year break crop for areas with a high level of black grass infestation, enabling the land to once again be used for growing wheat for human consumption.

The deeper rooting clovers, lucence and sainfoin in the herbal leys will improve water percolation and drainage, reducing the risk of surface water runoff and loss of topsoil, which contributes to better soil structure, nutrient and carbon levels.

Digestate for farmers
How can you help give land back to nature?

Our green mobile phone service, Ecotalk + RSPB, is also helping nature to bounce back by investing 100% of profits to buy back land for nature.

In July 2019, Ecotalk helped the RSPB buy Fairburn Tips in West Yorkshire. Today, biodiversity is thriving at the old coal dumping ground with woodland, lakes and lowland heath habitat making a wonderful home for bees and butterflies, including Essex Skippers and Common Blues.

You can help us buy more land for nature, just by swapping your SIM. Ecotalk + RSPB has the best coverage in the UK with the EE network and some of the lowest cost tariffs around.

Similar articles

Smart Meter Benefits - An Ecotricity customer's perspective

Since the energy crisis began, our founder Dale Vince has continued to call out the fundamental issues with Britain’s energy system that have led us here, and how to fix them – by radically ramping up investment in renewable energy generation.

More
Manifesto book with long shadow

Get the book!

Manifesto out now

Shop
Dale Vince portrait with bandana

Zerocarbonista.com

Our founder Dale Vince shares his thoughts on the green revolution

Explore the site

Don’t just take our word for it…

Ecotricity is recommended by
Ethical Consumer Best Buy logo
  • Our story
  • Our mission
  • Our manifesto
  • 25 years of Ecotricity
  • Ecotricity innovation
  • Walking the talk
  • Our partners
  • Our news
Ecotricity logotype

Climate Clock

The Climate Clock is a version of the Doomsday clock that has been running since 1947 - this tracks the risk of global man-made disaster, through man made technology (like nuclear weapons) - displaying the minutes and seconds left before midnight, when disaster strikes. The climate crisis is a small part of the calculations made.
The climate clock uses a similar approach, but, focuses only on the climate crisis - which is the biggest and most urgent existential threat we face.
"The Climate Clock is a countdown to the biggest man-made disaster we face - but also a measure by which we can track our progress - moving from fossil to renewable energy. It shows we have no time to lose - the clock is ticking…" Dale Vince, OBE.
Ecotricity is a sponsor of the Glasgow Climate Clock that will run every night until COP26.