UK-based Assured Asset Energy (AAE) has launched a £27m (€33m) fund to provide financing for anaerobic digestion projects in Northern Ireland.

The company will finance up to 30 on-farm anaerobic digestion projects with maximum funding of £2.8m (€3.4) for each project.

AAE said the projects are estimated to produce clean renewable energy for up to 5,000 homes across the region and it would also create 180 construction jobs.

The plants are expected to treat approximately 450,000t of farm waste annually to produce biogas, while this may generate up to 8.5MW of clean electricity for connection and sale onto the regional grid.

Thie funding will assist the farmers for setting up the anaerobic digestion facilities on their land.

AAE director Alex Colombini was quoted by Belfast Telegraph as saying that introduction of the fund will be of great benefit to local farmers and will help Northern Ireland reduce its carbon footprint.

"We encourage farmers who have the capacity to take advantage of the opportunity," Colombini said.

"The plants are expected to treat approximately 450,000t of farm waste annually to produce biogas."

Northern Ireland Environment Minister Mark H Durkan said renewable energy really is a win-win – a win for the environment and the economy.

Durkan said, "This fund will help more farmers to seize the benefits of this renewable technology which can help them make savings and reduce running costs in the longer term.

"Anaerobic digesters can also assist in reducing carbon emissions and help meet Executive renewable energy targets."

AAE said that funding would contribute nation’s target of producing 40% of energy from renewable sources by 2020.

Presently, Northern Ireland has just eight anaerobic digestion plants, compared to nearly 100 in England and Wales.

Anaerobic digestion is a process where microorganisms break down organic waste, like food scraps, manure and sewage sludge, in the absence of oxygen for producing biogas, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency. Biogas can be used as a source of energy similar to natural gas.