Thursday, September 01, 2011

Turning biomass into biogas - Chatham Daily News

The Daily News - Organic waste is the new black gold at the University of Guelph's Ridgetown Campus.

The campus unveiled a $2.6 million FedDev Ontario-funded anaerobic bio-digester that converts agricultural and food industry biomass to biogas.


(We could not find a video by PlanEt Biogas so we have incuded the one above.)

"This is one of the ways we can produce renewable electricity in our community. It's unique in that . . . this can run 24-7 so we can produce hydro at the same level all the time," said Art Schaafsma, director of the Ridgetown Campus.

Schaafsma said the farm scale unit, built by PlanET Biogas Solutions, works much like a cows stomach, utilizing bacteria to break down the ingredients to produce gas which fuels an engine to create energy through a generator.

The unit produces 250-kilowatt hours of electricity and has the capacity to produce the same amount of heat energy as well.

"You go to some farms and they're taking those fans and they're collecting the air and blowing it over a trailer of wood and they're drying wood. Other guys in Eastern Ontario are drying grain," said Matt Lensink, application manager for PlanET Biogas Solutions.

"We can heat about five acres of greenhouse with the heat that comes from this facility," Schaafsma said. "We can recapture nutrients as well, which can go back on the farmers fields.

"We've kind of replaced the cow and made a great big cow," he added.

Lensink said a farmer in the Niagara area has been applying the nutrients captured from a biogas facility on his land for two years and is now able to get a fourth cut of hay off his fields.

He added not only did the farmer say that was unheard of before, but also that the quality of the hay is good.

Dave Van Kesteren, MP for Chatham-Kent Essex, is excited about the possibilities the new biogas facility opens up to Chatham-Kent.

"This it really cool stuff, its got possibilities, huge possibilities," said Van Kesteren. "If we can create the technology, sell the goods but also sell the technology abroad, now we've added another component."

The MP said the big challenge in research is to get the results to the market place and create a new revenue source for local farmers and an opportunity to create new jobs.

"We want to start training (operators) here so we get the great people, because those great people will go into the greenhouses, they'll come up with this innovation, these great ideas and next thing you know we'll be exporting," Van Kesteren said. "We're just getting it going and a guy like Art is going to help make that a possibility."

Ridgetown campus is investing in the bio economy not just for the future of the school and area farmers, but also for the community at large.

"It takes a community to make a campus . . .we feel like we're obligated to . . . help lead and create opportunity so that we have some development in the rural sector," said Schaafsma. "We have to pitch in to make these things happen. All our kids are leaving and we need to provide opportunities so they can stay, many of them want to stay and they can't."

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