The Chaput Family Farm in North Troy has installed a 300-kilowatt anaerobic digestion facility to turn organic materials like manure into biogas for use generating electricity.
Electricity produced by the project will meet all of the farm’s needs, with excess power sold to the local utility. The facility will also provide heat and hot water for the dairy herd.
As well as producing clean energy, the facility will also produce a solid residue that provides an effective alternative to fertilizer.
The Chaput’s digester is the first facility on Vermont’s Standard Offer Program, which provides the farm a fixed price of 16 cents per kilowatt hour for its power output over the next 20 years. The farm will also receive a renewable energy credit of 4 cents per kWh for the next five years through Central Vermont Power Service’s “Cow Power Program.”
The farm will produce all of its on-farm electricity, heat, hot water and bedding for the cows. It will sell the excess power to the local utility. The excess bedding will be sold to local farms.
Anaerobic digestion involves microbes feeding on liquidized organic material within large tanks, and in the process giving off a methane-rich biogas that can be collected and combusted to produce electricity.
The Chaput Family, which owns four farms, built the digester to handle manure from 1,600 mature cows and young stock.
The digester project in North Troy was given financial assistance by the USDA through its Rural Energy for America Program, authorized by the 2008 Farm Bill.
The REAP program offers development assistance, grants for energy audits and funds to help agricultural producers and rural small businesses purchase and install renewable energy systems and make energy efficiency improvements.
USDA Rural Development Vermont State Director Molly Lambert was joined on the tour of the dairy farm by Rural Business-Cooperative Service Administrator Judith Canales and Farm Service Agency State Executive Director Robert Paquin.
“This project highlights the way USDA agencies are working together to help rural farmers and businesses,” Ms Canales said. “Supporting our farmers in projects like this is good for them, good for the environment, and good for businesses and residents throughout the community.”
The federal Natural Resources Conservation Service provides technical and financial assistance to producers for anaerobic digesters through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), and this year funded four new digesters in Vermont.
The NRCS also offers technical and financial help for other aspects of anaerobic digestion projects.
Commenting on the North Troy facility, NRCS State Conservationist Vicky Drew said: “In addition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions through the collection of methane, the digester will also reduce energy needed to produce and haul bedding to the farm by recycling the manure onsite into a dry bedding material for the cows, creating a closed-loop system.”
The USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) has now established a new conservation loan program that can be used to finance anaerobic digestion projects approved by the NRCS. Up to $300,000 in loans and up to $1.12 million in loan guarantees are available, and can be used along with other grants and loans.