Green Mountain Power's Cow Power Program creates cost incentives for farmers to turn livestock waste into renewable energy through anaerobic digestion. A new ruling by the Vermont Public Service Board will expand this program from a limited territory to Green Mountain's entire service territory.
Green Mountain Power customers across Vermont can now support a pure Vermont form of renewable energy produced by over 10,000 Vermont dairy cows, thanks to a new ruling by the Vermont Public Service Board approving the expansion of the GMP Cow Power Program from the limited territory previously served by CVPS to the entire GMP service territory.
Cow Power was first offered to customers in 2004, as a way to offer new, local renewable energy choices. The GMP Cow Power program currently includes 12 farms, and generates 16 million kilowatthours per year -- enough to completely power 2,200 average Vermont homes.
"We are so excited to be able to offer GMP Cow Power to 90,000 additional Green Mountain Power customers," said Mary Powell, CEO of Green Mountain Power. "This program has so many benefits for farms, for the environment, and for Vermont as a whole. The expansion of this program is one more way that we can increase renewable power in Vermont."
To produce Cow Power, farmers feed cow manure into an on-site anaerobic digester. Naturally occurring microbes in the digester convert the waste into several useful byproducts, one of which is methane gas. The methane fuels an engine which drives an electric generator. Heat generated from this process is repurposed to keep the digester warm, and can offset fuel purchases on the farm for hot water and space heating. The energy generated is fed into the GMP electrical system for distribution to customers.
The coarse plant fibers left over are processed through a mechanical separator. These odorless solids can be used to replace sawdust or sand as bedding for the animals. Solids not used for bedding may be further processed and sold as a garden soil. The liquid portion is an enhanced fertilizer used to grow crops to feed the cows.
Matt Maxwell is a farmer at Maxwell's Neighborhood Farm in Coventry, VT, which has been producing Cow Power since 2008. "We joined the program because milk prices were so low, and we were looking for a separate, steady income stream," he said. "It's been great for us. There's the income from the sale of electricity. We're using the dry by-product as bedding for our 750 dairy cows, and we have excess to sell to other farmers and landscapers. With excess heat from the engine we've been able to heat a 2,600 square foot greenhouse where we raise broccoli and greens for the wholesale market all winter, and tomatoes and peppers in the summer. We also heat our machine shop with the excess heat, which means we buy way less heating oil. When people pay a little extra to buy GMP Cow Power, they are helping the environment, and they are helping Vermont farmers stay in business."
Green Mountain Power customers can choose to buy 25%, 50%, or 100% of their energy from Cow Power, and pay an extra four cents per kilowatt hour premium. If an average Vermont household using 600 kwh a month decided to get 25% of their energy from GMP Cow Power, they would pay an extra $6 per month.
A similar program has been launched in British Columiba, Canada. The B.C. Agricultural Research and Development Coproration (ADRCorp) has created a program under which B.C.'s electricity consumers have the option to buy thier electricty from on-farm A.D. systems. The program, inspired by the Vermont initaitive, provides local renewable energy to B.C., while lowering carbon footprints.
The programs in Vermont and British Columbia are postive signs for biogas in North America. However, the industry faces signficant challenges. One such challenge is finacial risk. For example, under Cowpower Vermont, after grants, the farm still has to pay for more than half the cost of an average $2 million dollar digester project, which would usually be amortized over a 10-year period. Gross income from biogas energy for a 1000-head farm averages only $300,000 a year, about 7.5 percent of a dairy’s total gross revenue. Given that the life expectancy of a given system runs roughly only 20 years, invesment in Biogas is still a risky proposition.
While current North American industry is largely dependant on subsidies, innovation aims to change this. New technology including the growth and sale of biogas byproducts, increases profitability by adding additional revenue streams. Also, new and innovative tank building methods help expand the lifecyle of each project, bolsterring profitability. Governemnt and not-for-profit subsidies combined with technological advancements could hold the key to creating a more viable biogas market in North America.
Interested in learning more about Anaerobic Digestion? Download "AD-101":
CANADA- On January 27th, Cowpower was launched at the 2012 Pacific Agriculture Show in Abbotsford, and British Columbians were granted a ground-breaking opportunity. For the first time ever, BC residents can create positive environmental change and renewable energy production, all the while supporting local, sustainable agriculture.
For around a dollar a day, Cowpower supporters can enhance the environmental sustainability of every kilowatt-hour of electricity that their business, home or event consumes. These kilowatts are enhanced with the environmental and social attributes that are generated by anaerobic digesters, including reductions in greenhouse gas and odour emissions, and increased water and food safety, environmental protection and nutrient recovery.
We at Cowpower hope that this program will help make BC a leader in the development of anaerobic digesters – a technology that generates genuine environmental, social and economic benefits for our agricultural sector, local communities and BC as a whole. We look forward to building the Cowpower community with residents and businesses across the province.
The Cowpower launch was a great success, and everyone in attendance seemed genuinely excited about this new program. “Cowpower is an important step towards building stronger bridges between consumers and the agriculture sector”, said one of the attendees. “Farmers have the ability to do more than produce food” said a farmer at the launch. “However, first we need the right support to be able to build anaerobic digesters that are economically viable.”
Jim Shepard, the Pacific Agriculture Show organiser, was excited about the launch of Cowpower and having the Pacific Agriculture Show Cowpowered. “Since its inception, the Pacific Agriculture Show has always had a focus on efficiency and responsible stewardship of the land”, said Jim. “Cowpower not only enables the Show to take this focus to a whole new level, but it also gives us the opportunity to support the very sector that is so intrinsic to the success of the Show”.
British Columbia's Agricultural Research and Development corporation (ARDCORP) released the results of the On-Farm Anaerobic Digestion Benchmark Study in late December 2011. It was undertaken to provide an informational benchmark from which individuals and groups in B.C.'s agricultural sector can inform decisions pertaining to the development of on-farm anaerobic digestion systems.
(Photo:Two Stout Monks) Arial View of British Columbia's agricultural landscape.
The benchmarks have been drawn based on the analysis and summation of feasibility studies developed for twelve farm-sites in B.C. The twelve sites were selected with the intention of representing geographic, demographic and circumstantial variances.
The study highlights a key issue within the B.C's government regulations, "the Ministry of Environment's (MOE) proposed On‐farm AD Waste Discharge Authorization essentially limits the volume of non-agricultural feedstocks an on-farm AD system can accept to 25%. As a result, the potential number of economically viable AD systems in B.C. is restricted to a very small number of sites that have an ideal combination of farm size, distance from interconnection and proximity/access to highly desirable feedstocks. If MOE proposed On‐farm AD Waste Discharge Authorization were changed to enable on-farm AD systems to meet the requirements for accepting 49% non-agricultural feedstocks, the number of economically viable sites in B.C. would increase dramatically".
Funding for the study was provided by the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada through the Canadian Agricultural Adaptation Program (CAAP). In B.C., this program is delivered by the Investment Agriculture Foundation of B.C. Learn more about the Anaerobic Digestion Benchmarking Study here.
The proposed Feed-In Tarriff program that could kickstart a biogas industry in British Columbia may be in jeopardy. If you live in the province and support this clean energy solution, please read the following from the ADIAC:
Chilliwack Farm, B.C. Photo By: Ian Meissner
The proposed Feed-In Tariff (FIT) program supports renewable energy technology adoption in B.C, such as Anaerobic Digestion (AD). Anaerobic Digestion (AD) is a naturally occurring biological process in which organic material, such as animal manure and food residues, are converted into a methane-rich-gas. This gas can be combusted to produce renewable electricity. As with other renewable energy technologies, such as wind and hydro, AD systems produce carbon neutral, renewable electricity.
Despite Provincial Government announcing plans last year to develop the FIT program, it is now considering whether or not to move forward with development.
What does this mean for AD development in BC?
If the Provincial government decides not to develop the program, the only option available for most renewable energy projects in B.C will be to sell electricity to B.C. Hydro’s existing Standing Offer Program (SOP). Currently, the price offered by B.C. Hydro under the SOP is well below that required to make AD systems economically viable.
What is the reason behind this possible change?
Part of the reason for this potential government u-turn is that support from industry and rate payers for the FIT program is perceived by the Provincial government to be very limited. Unless this perception is changed, it is highly unlikely that the Provincial government will move forward with a FIT program.
How can you help?
To overcome this misperception and to help ensure that B.C. receives the FIT program so desperately needed to facilitate development of a viable AD industry, the Provincial government needs to hear from you. Here are three simple steps you can do now:
1. Copy and paste this letter template. Make any changes as you see fit.
2. Print off 4 copies
3. Address all 4 letters to Rich Coleman but send to:
Hon. Rich Coleman, Minister of Energy and Mines
Room 128, Parliament Buildings
Victoria, BC, V8V 1X4
Hon. Don McRae, Minister of Agriculture
Room 301, Parliament Buildings
Victoria, BC, V8V 1X4
Hon. Pat Bell, Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation
Room 137, Parliament Buildings
Victoria, BC, V8V 1X4
Hon. Dr. Terry Lake, Minister of Environment
Room 112, Parliament Buildings
Victoria, BC, V8V 1X4
With your support we can help the B.C. government continue its leadership by implementing the proposed FIT that was originally announced in the Clean Energy Act.
To learn more about dnaerobic digestion and where it is being adopted, download this free E-book:
Turning waste to energy solves two big problems for an industrial society. Upfront investment and operating costs are big hurdles to overcome for such a proposition but if these challenges can be met, the dividends are big for investors and the planet.
Octaform's finished forming system was ideal for this wastewater treatment project.
Click here to find out why!
ARDCorp’s Cow Power program hopes to kickstart anaerobic digestion technology in British Columbia this year, turning manure into energy, solving the problems of waste management and providing a source of clean power.
Israeli start-up, Emefcy is also hoping that their patented wastewater treatment technology will take hold in a big way, turning wastewater treatment from a huge energy drain to an electricity generator.
Emefcy’s technology uses naturally occurring bacteria in an electrogenic bioreactor to treat wastewater. The organic material in the waste produces power and treated water, transforming wastewater treatment from an energy-intensive, cost-intensive and carbon-intensive process, into an energy-generating and carbon-reducing process.
The benefits are both economic and environmental: Conventional wastewater treatment uses 2 percent of global power capacity (80,000 megawatts and 57,000,000 tons per year of carbon dioxide), costing $40 billion per year. Rather than using conventional energy-intensive aerobic processes or methane-producing anaerobic digestion to treat wastewater, Emefcy harvests renewable energy directly from the wastewater and feeds it to the power grid, enabling the energy-positive wastewater treatment plant. The primary initial applications are for wastewater treatment in the food, beverage, pharmaceutical and chemical industries, with total market potential of US$10 billion annually.
Emefcy has caught the eye of Energy Technology Ventures – a GE-backed investment company focused on the development of clean energy technology. Their investment into Emefcy, represents their first foray into water-related technology.
After the successful lauch of CVPS Cow Power in Vermont, the B.C. Agricultural Research and Development Corporaton (ARDCorp) is bringing the Cow Power program to B.C.
Under this program, B.C.’s electricity consumers will have the option to buy their electricity from on-farm AD systems by paying a premium on their electricity bill (an additional ¢4/kWh)1. The majority of this premium, in combination with the price paid for renewable electricity by B.C. Hydro, will pass back to the agricultural producer, increasing both the profitability and number of AD systems built in B.C.
Once purchased through Cow Power, customers become the owner of the anaerobic digestion-derived electricity and all of the environmental benefits associated with the anaerobic digestion system. Businesses can use these environmental benefits to create a unique identity for their product/service. Residential customers are rewarded through knowing their choice has helped reduce negative environmental impacts.
Octaform Systems along with the following organizations are proud sponsors of the Cow Power Program:
- Investment Agriculture Foundation
- B.C. Bioenergy Network
- B.C. Ministry of Agriculture
- B.C. Milk Producers Association
- CH-Four Biogas Inc.
- European Power Systems Ltd.
- Organic Resource Management Inc.
Anaerobic Digester built with Octaform's SNAPLock Tight System for CCS-agriKomp, Millbrook, ON.
According to B.C. Hydro stats, 1.63 million residential and 194,000 light industrial/commercial electricity customers consumed 17,600 and 17,800GWh of electricity in 2010, respectively. If the Cow Power Program secured just 0.5% of these residential and light industrial/commercial customers (which judging by the success of CVPS Cow Power in Vermont should not be a problem), this would create demand for 177GWh/year of AD-derived electricity. Meeting this demand would require the construction of roughly 56 Anaerobic Digesters producing 3.15GWh/year electricity each. These systems would require a capital investment of approximately $112 million, and would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 156,000 tonnes/year. This is equivalent to removing 74,500 cars from B.C.’s roads.
Not only will Cow Power have a positive impact on B.C.'s local air and water quality, it will significantly reduce odour from agricultural operations. Go Cow Power!