Renewable Energy

A Manure Digester for Small Farms

By Steven Johnson | ECT Staff Writer Published: April 25th, 2012

Now there’s proof that renewable energy is for small dairy farms, too.

A Wisconsin G&T is buying renewable cow power from a manure digester that could be a boon to small farms. (AP Photo/Marin Independent Journal, Frankie Frost)

A Wisconsin G&T is buying renewable cow power from a manure digester that could be a boon to small farms. (AP Photo/Marin Independent Journal, Frankie Frost)

Dairyland Power Cooperative has announced that it is purchasing the renewable energy from a 45-kilowatt anaerobic digester located at a dairy farm near Chaseburg, Wis.

The La Crosse-based G&T has an active animal waste-to-energy program, but the new acquisition marks the first small-scale use of a manure digester system in the region.

It’s a big deal, too, because it opens up the possibility of renewable energy from smaller farms. Typically, manure digester plants have been designed for large-herd farms of at least 1,000 cows.

“Dairyland Power is a national leader in terms of the quantity of on-farm digesters producing renewable energy for our cooperative system. We are pleased to be part of this partnership which produces more renewable power locally while offering great promise for small family-owned farms,” said Craig Harmes, Dairyland manager, business development.

The project involves a 200-cow farm owned by Wayne Peters and his sons, Rory and Roger, which is in the service territory of Vernon Electric Co-op.

The Universal Sanitary Equipment Manufacturing Co., based in Tomah, Wis., received a state grant to develop and demonstrate a digester suitable for farms with 150-200 cows, so they can turn a potential disposal cost into a source of homegrown, renewable energy.

The pilot project at the Peters Farm came on-line earlier this spring.

“Wisconsin is known for its many small, family-owned dairy farms. By developing a digester system that taps the renewable energy of these farms, we are greatly increasing the potential production of renewables while helping farmers minimize farm waste,” said Pat Rezin, company president.

Cow manure is collected and heated in the digester tank to create methane gas. This biogas fuels an engine that produces renewable electricity. Digester plants also help to reduce odor and animal waste problems associated with manure disposal on farms.

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