A GREEN energy plant in north Durham is expected to be up and running by the end of the year.

The anaerobic digester will be operated at the Thomas Swan site at Crookhall, near Consett, and is due to open in December.

The new sustainable power plant uses maize and grass silage produced by farms in the region and was backed by planners last year.

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The chemicals company hopes it will provide a safe source of electricity to stabilise rising energy costs.

Harry Swan, managing director of Thomas Swan, said it was a major step forward for the company and an increasingly important ‘green agenda’ for the communities of Consett and the surrounding area.

Mr Swan said: “This new plant will put the challenges of energy supply and costs, which have been rising rapidly, back into our own hands, and that will improve our competitiveness in global markets.

“We will be able to manufacture on a more sustainable basis and invest in new technologies which will help develop and expand the business.

“This is great news for the company and for Consett.”

The company has occupied the site since 1926 and the plant will be built and owned by Generation X with funding provided by Ingenious Clean Energy.

Thomas Swan will lease the land required on the site to Generation X and buy around 60 per cent of the electricity generated, with any excess going to the National Grid.

When the plans for the development near Rotary Way were first revealed concerns were raised about the impact slow moving farm vehicles would have on traffic in the area.

Residents were also worried about noise and odours coming from the site, but case officer Chris Shields told the planning committee this would not be the case and only food stock would be used.

Durham County Council granted full planning permission for the scheme, which the company says will safeguard 165 jobs, in July last year.

Mr Swan said: “The basic technology is simple. The plant is fed with familiar crops which are harvested as normal, stored on site and used as required.

“In the plant the crops are broken down by anaerobic bacteria in a tightly sealed unit, releasing biogas which is burned in a generator and converted into electricity.

“Because the process is sealed and anaerobic, without oxygen, no odour can escape.”