Local, Renewable Energy

Interesting story on the AP about a Vermont dairy that uses the methane from cow manure to help generate revenue for their farm.

For the Audets, the electricity has created an important new income stream at a time when low wholesale milk prices have squeezed their margin. The utility pays 95 percent of the going New England wholesale power price for electricity from the Audets' generator.

In addition, the utility charges customers willing to pay it a 4-cents-per-kilowatt-hour premium for renewable energy and then turns the money over to the Audets. So far, more than 3,000 CVPS customers have signed up to pay the premium to support the renewable energy effort.

The bottom line is more than $120,000 a year from electricity sales. When they add in other energy savings enabled by the project, the Audets expect their $1.2 million investment in project equipment to pay for itself in about seven years.

The story interests me because it shows how local, renewable resources can be used to generate power. Furthermore, this is a great example of public and private interests working together (I'm assuming Vermont power companies are not privately owned, but I could be wrong. Too lazy to do a search right now).

The process by which the methane is extracted apparently yields multiple products. One in particular has an interesting benefit. I bolded it below:

Three products result: a liquid that contains enough nutrients that it can be used as fertilizer for the farm's feed crops; a dry, odor-free, fluffy brown substance that is used as bedding for the cows and some of which goes to a local firm that bags and sells it as fertilizer on the home-and-garden market; and methane.

Audet said the farm was saving the $1,200 a week it formerly spent on sawdust bedding for the cows, as well as some of the cost of heating the milking barn. A study by agricultural scientists from the University of Vermont found that the bedding produced from the manure was better than the sawdust. "Wood harbors a lot of bacteria," she said.

Weaning ourselves off oil is doable, and from the look of it a little creativity could actually generate new markets. Even small scale success stories like this one are exciting, assuming the project works in the long term.

So how will this affect greenhouse gas emissions if implemented on a wider scale?

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