Anaerobic Digester, What It Is and How It Helps

7:42 PM, Jul 19, 2007   |    comments
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Undated - From powering your car, to powering a farm, turning the waste from animals into electricity is about to be reality. One West Michigan farm is building a piece of equipment that will break manure down and turn it into energy. The den Dulk dairy farm in Ravenna is a huge operation with 3,000 cows, officially classified as a concentrated animal feeding operation, or C.A.F.O. The Environmental Protection Agency watches these farms closely for potential negative impacts to the environment. This farm hopes to help the environment with a new partnership. Sarah Lineberry, Biomass Project Manager says, “Grand Valley State University is involved with this project, Dr. Imad Mahawilli, wrote a grant, submitted it to the public service commission was awarded a million dollars to build a bio-digester plant on a dairy farm.” The owner of the farm also contributed $1.7 million toward the project and will use the waste from one third of the cows. “We're capturing and harnessing energy out of a waste stream that the farmer has to deal with anyway,” says Sarah Right now, the manure from the thousands of cows on this farm ends up in a holding pond. In the future, part of it will go into an anaerobic digester and turned into energy. Sarah explains, “The digester tank we fill it every day, thirty thousand gallons, there's an agitator at the top that mixes and churns, we are heating it constantly so it's always maintaining that 98-100 degrees which is what we want. The bacteria metabolize the manure." And after 21 days in the tank Saray says, “The biogas that comes off is about 60% methane.” The biogas will produce the electricity the farm needs to operate. Sarah says, "Now we've got this inert, odorless compound that can actually be used for bedding back into the barns.” That's where the whole process starts all over again. Under the current schedule, the digester should be operational and producing power by October.

Linda Paige

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