My neighbors up at Morris, Minn. are up to good things with their 12,000 dairy cow operation. They will soon be creating renewable energy for electric generation for Great River Energy. Two local dairy operations have installed anaerobic digesters in their facilities to help control methane emissions. Could this be the new wave for livestock producers? It keeps popping up in the news, and I think that soon, the sweet smell of success will be manure! I can picture it now… Here is an excerpt from the press release. You can read the full text at “Moo-ving and Shaking: Smart Dairy Farmers and Electric Co-Ops Make Hay with Manure.”
Great River Energy, Maple Grove, Minn., is the wholesale power supplier to 28 member distribution cooperatives across Minnesota. The distribution cooperative serving the Morris region, is Agralite Electric Cooperative. Riverview is the managing partner of West River Dairy and Riverview Dairy of MN. When the dairies decided to install anaerobic digesters, largely to convert dairy wastes into more valuable and manageable byproducts, a win-win situation emerged.
These anaerobic digesters are large, cement tanks outside the barn, mostly underground, which capture the cows’ waste. This step greatly reduces odor from the dairy operation. When manure breaks down, it creates a bio-gas, which is primarily methane. The methane rises to the top of the tank and is captured. Methane is a greenhouse gas which, when released into the atmosphere, is 23 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Once captured, the methane is typically destroyed through “flaring,” during which it is burned through a flame that flares out the end of a pipe. The business earns carbon offsets or carbon reduction credits based on the amount of methane destroyed in the process, which is measured by a third party.