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Carter Wall

Carter Wall

Executive Director, Renewable Energy Division, Massachusetts Clean Energy Center

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Two exciting renewable energy projects are currently under construction at dairy farms in Massachusetts. When completed this spring, they will be the first ever in the state to produce electricity from cow manure!

Power-producing cows

AGreen Energy: Five dairy farms from across Massachusetts have joined together for a project at the Jordan family dairy farm in Rutland that will produce methane gas using “anaerobic digestion” – a non-combustion process by which natural microorganisms break down organic material like cow manure into liquid fertilizer, fibrous solid material (which will be used as animal bedding), and methane gas. This is a great way to manage the manure generated on dairy farms in an environmentally friendly way. The methane gas will be fed into a generator that will produce heat for the farm and 300 kW of electricity – enough to power more than 130 homes every year. It will also provide welcome financial support to five family dairy farms. MassCEC helped this project with $360,000 toward feasibility studies, design, and construction costs, and the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources contributed over $100,000 toward other project costs. Rutland’s Select Board voted unanimously to license the project.

“Rutland has always been fiercely proud of its farms, and has been a Right To Farm Community for several years now. The digester project at Jordan’s is just fantastic,” said Sheila Dibb, Chair of Rutland’s Select Board. “It brilliantly shows how local, family-owned farms can embrace diversification projects that are both good for the environment and financially beneficial to the farm. We wish them all the best, and are eagerly looking forward to the ‘grand opening’!”

Pine Island FarmPine Island Farm: Pine Island Farm, a 710-cow farm in Sheffield, will be home to a 178 kW generator using a similar process to the one at Jordan Dairy. MassCEC provided over $500,000 toward the cost of this project.

David Cash, Assistant Secretary for Policy at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, says anaerobic digestion is a win-win-win-win.

“Not only does this technology help the bottom line for farmers, keep cow manure from running off into streams and trap harmful methane gases produced by the natural breakdown of organic waste,” he said, “but these projects will also produce clean, renewable energy to offset emissions from power plants. We hope to see more of these projects developed in the Commonwealth.”

The photos are of the digester under construction at Jordan Dairy Farm in December, 2010.

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