Cow manure being used to power Vermont resort’s gondola
October 24, 2012
Steamboat Springs — Routt County has plenty of energy sources — renewable sources like hydroelectric and traditional sources like the coal from Twentymile Mine. But when was the last time we looked at manure?
A ski resort in Vermont isn't holding its nose at the idea, metaphorically speaking.
The resort is enrolled in Green Mountain Power's Cow Power program, which allows GMP customers to purchase all or part of their power at a premium and support dairy farmers and other Cow Power projects, according to a post on Killington's website.
The GMP website explains the process: Farmers supplying the manure for the program feed it into an anaerobic digester located on the farm. The digester is kept at 100 degrees Fahrenheit and can hold 21 days of waste. Bacteria in the heated digester break down the manure and produce methane gas. The gas is used to power a modified natural gas engine. Heat from the process is repurposed to keep the digester warm, and electricity is fed into GMP's system and distributed to customers.
The solid waste left after the process is separated into odorless solids that can be used for bedding, and the rest can be used as fertilizer.
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Now, once the power is on the grid, it's not tracked. Electricity from traditional sources or from manure all works the same once it hits the gondola, but GMP describes how the program works like this:
For every kilowatt-hour requested by customers and provided by a Vermont farm, we'll pay the farmer for the energy at rates set by the state, plus the Cow Power charge of 4 cents for the environmental and renewable benefits of the generation. If there are not enough kilowatt-hours (kWh) available from our farm partners, we will attempt to acquire and retire premium Renewable Energy Certificates from other regional renewable generation, issued by the regional system operator, to support renewables in a broader sense. If no certificates are available in the regional market for 4 cents per kWh or less, we'll deposit the payments into the GMP Renewable Development Fund. This fund, overseen by an independent board, provides numerous incentives to farmers to stimulate further renewable farm generation in Vermont. We don't profit from the program, but the good news of GMP Cow Power has traveled around the world!
The Killington post states "13 Vermont farms, with roughly 10,000 total dairy cows producing 300,000 gallons of manure per day, participate in the GMP Cow Power program and are compensated for their electric generation and the related environmental benefits."