(NaturalNews) A dairy farm in Vermont has teamed up with an alternative power company to produce electricity from cow manure.
Constructed with a $700,000 investment from Westminster Farms Inc., $175,000 from Green Mountain Power and a further $625,000 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Vermont Department of Agriculture, the Vermont Agricultural Credit Corporation and the Vermont Clean Energy Development Fund, the plant has been producing 225 killowatt-hours per hour of electricity since July, roughly the amount consumed by 250 houses.
The plant is situated on site at Westminster Farms, where an anaerobic digester processes raw cow manure by mixing, heating and breaking it down into several different components. Methane gas extracted by this procedure is then burned at the power plant. Green Mountain pays the farm a fixed rate for the electricity, which helps keep the operation profitable.
"This kind of pricing arrangement makes it possible for the farmers to count on this revenue for their operations," said Mary Powell, president of Green Mountain Power. "Our customers are choosing to buy renewable energy for a lot of reasons, but we often hear that helping preserve the local economy and way of life is an important factor. With so many Vermont farms closing shop, diversifying with the addition of electrical generation will help increase their chances of survival."
Tough economic times have led to the closure of 300 Vermont dairy farms in the past five years. Only 1,100 remain.
Electricity is not the only useful product being produced by the new plant. The farm will be using liquid wastes extracted from the manure as fertilizer, and solids as cattle bedding. This will enable the farm to buy $800,000 less worth of sawdust each year.
"This arrangement is a winner for all involved. I want to congratulate Green Mountain Power and Westminster Farms for working together to make this project possible," said Vermont Governor Jim Douglas. "Not only does this allow Green Mountain Power to provide low cost alternative energy to their customers, but it also gives the farm a much needed revenue boost."