In Maryland farm animal waste could become a source of electricity for people. A state program called the Clean Bay Power project intends to use animal poop as a fuel for creating methane which is burned to spin turbines that generate electricity. The technology is known as a biogas digester. Maryland’s program requires the new proposed biogas digester plant to be able to generate ten megawatts of electricity. The program will also reduce the amount of chicken litter and farm animal manure entering the Chesapeake Bay. Nitrogen, phosphorous and other nutrients from animal farms get washed into the regional watershed and wind up in the bay where they damage the marine ecology. Oxygen-deprived dead zones in the bay result from excessive amounts of such farm-related chemicals.
“Maryland is leading the nation’s efforts in clean energy and sustainability, and our state’s growing green jobs sector is vital to our ability to create jobs and compete globally in the new economy,” said the state’s governor. (Source: Hometownannapolis.com)
Reducing animal waste entering the bay could also save money because trying to do clean-ups once it is already there is very expensive. The old adage an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure applies in this situation to the tune of about five to ten billion dollars. That is the cost estimate for the state’s proposed program to clean waste from the bay by 2017.
A company called Fibrowatt has indicated an interest in submitting a proposal for a plant. Their design and construction cost is about $300 million. Permitting and construction would require about forty months. This company already has one such facility operating in Minnesota, but it initially showed excessive air pollution from its smokestacks. The problem apparently was fixed, and would actually help improve the design of their next plant it has been reported.
Already about $850,000 has been granted to local farmers for manure-to-power plants by the federal government.
Biogas digesters can capture and burn methane before it enters the atmosphere and methane is a strong contributor to climate change. Another potential benefit of biogas digesters removing animal waste from the environment is the reduction of animal antibiotics in natural watersheds.
Image Credit: Larry Rana