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Manure has gold within

June 27, 2011
S. Ram Shrivastava  for Manure Manager
America faces a serious challenge due to its dependence on oil- and petroleum-based energy sources. Billions of dollars go out of the country and the economy suffers as energy costs keep going up, with no end in sight. Fortunately, communities with large animal farm-based businesses have an enormous untapped resource to help solve the energy problem in a collective manner.

The risk associated with capital investments has prevented most farmers from making an investment in anaerobic digester technologies. With renewed interest and grant funding for renewable green energy production at federal and state levels, now is the time to take action and extract the gold within manure waste. In this case the word “gold” refers to biogas energy that can be recovered using efficient digester technology, and complemented by gas processing to make bio-fuel for transportation needs.

A great example of this approach is Whatcom County in Washington State, which has made a county-wide effort to help the farmers realize this value and deal with the high cost of transportation fuel needs in the community. A significant economic value can be realized by generating power for use on the farm and using excess biogas to produce clean fuel for vehicles as compressed natural gas or hydrogen.

Imagine a county with 40,000 cows able to make 20,000 gallons of auto fuel per day, currently valued at $80,000 per day.

The electricity from manure digestion can make the farm energy-independent, while excess biogas can provide revenue via the sale of auto fuel.  Digested or composted solids may be sold as organic fertilizer, and treated effluent is applied back on the farm with no odors and complaints. It is a win-win solution.

Most of the farm communities also have dairy processing plants producing organic waste. The farms with digesters can increase their revenues and boost biogas production by treating this hauled-in waste. The central digester concept has been very profitable for farmers and makes them part of an “energy generation center”. Political leaders need to seize this opportunity to help their farms become catalysts of growth and partners in seeking energy independence. Such an initiative will create new jobs, strengthen farm businesses and result in a better environment.

Edit: Catherine Ruscigno



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