Moo Fuel: 1st US Manure-based Energy Programme

US - The U.S. Forest Service, seeking to reduce its environmental impact, has enrolled its Rutland headquarters in CVPS Cow Power(TM), the nation's first manure-based farm-to-consumer energy program.
calendar icon 21 October 2008
clock icon 3 minute read

"We work hard to improve the environment every day, so it's natural that we'd want to lessen our environmental impact through Cow Power," said Forest Supervisor Meg Mitchell. "As we looked at ways to reduce the impact of our energy usage, enrolling in CVPS Cow Power(TM) had a great impact. We are supporting a working landscape, helping to improve water quality and removing methane from the atmosphere."

Central Vermont Public Service President Bob Young praised the Forest Service, which will pay approximately $2,100 more for electricity per year due to its enrollment. The funds, paid through a 4-cent premium on 25 percent of the Forest Service's electrical usage, will go to farm-producers who supply renewable energy, other renewable products, or incentives to help more farms get into the energy business.

"We are supporting a working landscape, helping to improve water quality and removing methane from the atmosphere."
Central Vermont Public Service President Bob Young

"The Forest Service's enrollment makes a bold statement," Young said. "We hear a tremendous amount about green energy, sustainability and the environment, but the Forest Service and other Cow Power enrollees are backing up their talk with concrete action and funding that actually helps expand renewable energy development in Vermont."

The impact of enrollment is clear. Based on the Forest Service's energy usage, CVPS Cow Power(TM) will provide substantial benefits. By capturing methane on Vermont farms and producing enough electricity for the Forest Service's enrollment, the air emissions impact will be equivalent to removing 30 vehicles from the roads for a year. Put another way, it would take a 114-acre pine forest to capture and store carbon dioxide to have the same environmental impact.

"The environmental effects from our enrollment are dramatic, but equally important, we want to set an example for our employees and the general public," said Mitchell.

The Forest Service joins 4,000 other CVPS customers in the program, which is expected to add its fifth farm producer within three weeks.

The Cow Power process is simple: manure and other agricultural waste are held in a sealed concrete tank at the same temperature as a cow's stomach, 101 degrees.

Bacteria digest the volatile components, creating methane and killing pathogens and weed seeds. The methane, which is roughly 20 times more harmful than carbon dioxide in trapping heat in the atmosphere, fuels an engine/generator. CVPS customers can choose to receive all, half or a quarter of their electrical energy through Cow Power, and pay a premium of 4 cents per kilowatt hour. It goes to participating farm-producers, to purchase renewable energy credits when enough farm energy isn't available, or to the CVPS Renewable Development Fund. The fund provides grants to farm owners to develop on-farm generation.

Farm-producers are also paid 95 percent of the market price for all of the energy sold to CVPS.

CVPS Cow Power(TM) has been repeatedly honored since its creation in 2004. The program won the Vermont Governor's Award for Environmental Excellence in 2005-2006 and the Finalist's Commendation in the 2007 Edison Electric Institute's annual Edison Award competition, named for Thomas Edison.

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