BioCycle May 2013, Vol. 54, No. 5, p. 15
Randolph, Vermont: Groundbreaking For Food & Farm Waste Biogas Plant
Vermont Technical College held a groundbreaking ceremony on April 30 for its Central Vermont Recovered Biomass Facility Anaerobic Digester (CVRBFAD). The facility, colocated with the farm fields on the college’s Randolph Campus, will produce electricity plus heat from food waste and manure. The groundbreaking ceremony was attended by Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin, Vermont Secretary of Agriculture Chuck Ross, Public Service Department Commissioner Chris Recchia, Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund Executive Director Ellen Kahler and Vermont State Colleges Chancellor Timothy Donovan. The CVRBFAD will serve as an educational facility and model for other facilities as the reduced dependence on non-renewable energy sources is a benefit consistent with the state’s energy plan. “This is where we connect the dots to grow jobs and economic prosperity for Vermont… actually helping this country chart a course for a green power future with projects like this,” remarked Gov. Shumlin. “That’s going to ensure that Vermont does its part to have a stronger and healthier planet in the future.”
The digester — using Lipp technology supplied by Bio-Methatech — will be constructed near the campus central heating plant, which will ease transferring power to Vermont’s electric grid as well as heat to the campus. “This facility will become a focus for education in renewable energy, waste management, sustainable agriculture, and contribute to the health of our soils here in Vermont and the region,” said President of Vermont Tech, Dr. Philip Conroy. “It will be a source of knowledge for researchers, lawmakers, policymakers, the resource management industry, and so many more here in Vermont and throughout New England.”
Dane County, Wisconsin: Construction Set To Begin On Second Dairy Digester
Construction of Dane County’s second “Cow Power” facility is set to begin after receiving approval of the final agreements by the Dane County Board at a meeting in early May. The agreements will secure $3.3 million in previously-awarded grant funding from the state to help finance construction of the digester in the town of Springfield. The agreements also formalize private ownership and operations of the facility with Gundersen Health System, which set a corporate sustainability goal of being 100 percent energy independent by 2014, which includes renewable energy from biogas. The digester will take manure from three farms — a total of about 2,400 to 2,500 cows — and convert it into a 2 MW project with the electricity sold to Madison Gas and Electric. According to a press release from Dane County, the new facility has the ability to safely store millions of gallons of manure to help these farmers keep it off the land during periods of high run-off. The digester also has emergency manure storage capabilities for neighboring farms that may have difficulties storing it during excessively long, wet winter and spring seasons. “By working together — the public sector, private sector, business and agriculture — we are helping clean up our lakes, create homegrown ‘green’ energy, and make it easier for our multigeneration family farms to keeping growing their herds, crops and our local economy,” says Joe Parisi, Dane County Executive. Parisi included $300,000 in this year’s county budget to fund a new water treatment system for this digester that is designed to remove 100 percent of the phosphorus in the digested manure. Phosphorus is the leading cause of green algae and other weed growth in Dane County’s lakes.
The developer of this second digester, US Biogas, designed the 3 million gallon complete mix digester, and will oversee construction that is scheduled to begin in June after the project receives its permit from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. The digester is expected to come on line before the end of 2013. Through a similar public/private partnership, Dane County helped develop the first “Cow Power” digester shared by neighboring farms just north of Waunakee. That facility has been operational since 2011 (see “County Clusters Farms For Renewable Power Project,” February 2012).
Dane County has 400 dairy farms, which equates to approximately 50,000 dairy cows. Dairy farming is a $700-million a year industry in the county that supports 4,000 jobs. That is why addressing environmental impacts from the dairy industry in Dane County is so critical. “Nutrient removal is what makes these community digester projects tick in our county,” says Dave Merritt, Dane County’s Director of Policy and Program Development, adding that additional ones are already in the planning stages.
Washington, DC: Public Comments Sought On Reap Application Changes
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has proposed a series of changes to make it easier for agricultural producers and rural small businesses to apply for renewable energy and energy efficiency funding. The proposed changes would affect applications for loans and grants through USDA Rural Development’s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP).
According to USDA, they would achieve the following: Reduce paperwork, especially for projects under $80,000; Implement a more objective and uniform system to score applications; Authorize funding for refurbished and retrofitted renewable energy systems; Reduce certain reporting requirements; and Establish a quarterly application period for applicants seeking only guaranteed loans. This last change is intended to make the program more appealing to lenders and to ensure that funds are available year-round.
REAP is one of USDA’s most popular renewable energy and energy efficiency programs. From the passage of the 2008 Farm Bill through the end of Fiscal Year 2012, REAP funded more than 6,800 renewable energy and energy efficiency projects, feasibility studies, energy audits and renewable energy development assistance projects. The public comment period closes on June 11, 2013. To submit comments, or for additional information, see Page 22044 of the April 12 Federal Register, http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2013-04-12/pdf/2013-07273.pdf.
Fresno, Ohio: Cheese Producer Reduces Power Costs With Microturbine
Pearl Valley Cheese in Fresno is using biogas produced from treating its cheese wastewater in an anaerobic digester to generate electricity, which will save about $60,000 in energy costs annually, according to Pearl Valley President Chuck Ellis. Pearl Valley Cheese (PVC) manufactures 25,000 pounds/day of natural cheeses that are distributed throughout the eastern United States. The company’s 40,000-square foot operation houses a retail store, administrative offices, cold storage warehousing and manufacturing facilities. In business since the 1920s, PVC had always disposed of its wastewater on the family’s farm. As cheese production increased, so did the volume of wastewater. In 2008, the Environmental Protection Agency “insisted that we make considerations for a new disposal plan,” says Ellis.
Construction of the facility began in 2009 to handle the cheese-making operation discharge of about 40,000 gallons/day of wastewater. Siemens Water Technology designed and built the digester, which has 427,000 gallons of capacity. The system also includes two Dissolved Air Flotation (DAF) units to remove solids, and a gas storage vessel that holds 24 standard cubic feet of gas. PVC’s original plan had been to use a digester to produce biogas to fuel the facility’s boilers. Then the price of natural gas dropped, along with the potential savings from using biogas, Ellis says. He learned about microturbine technology, which would reduce power costs, and last September, purchased a 65 kilowatt C65 Capstone Micro Turbine, custom-designed and installed by Walbridge, Ohio-based GEM Energy. GEM also installed a high-pressure system to remove moisture from the gas. The turbine began producing electricity in March 2013, and “has worked out very well,” Ellis says, adding that some issues had to be resolved relating to gas supply to the turbine. The company has a net-metering arrangement with its local utility, Frontier Power Co., to feed the power it doesn’t use on-site into the local electrical grid.
The solids, a by-product of cheese production, are collected in a sludge holding tank for land application. The solids are rich in phosphorous and nitrogen and have significant fertilizer value for the crops grown near the cheese plant and on the family farm, Ellis explains. The system generates about 1,500 gallons/day of sludge. Ellis is considering installing a dewatering system to facilitate land application.