There are significant issues to be addressed with manure
generated electricity. The technology goes by several names, methane digesters
and anaerobic digestion are just 2. The promoters of such technology claim
that energy will be generated, odor will cease to be an issue and the effluent
or product from digesters will be sterile compost.
There are many problems with digesters. In my research I have
discovered that digesters are expensive, requiring taxpayer subsidies, they do
not work well in low temperatures requiring energy to heat up the liquid manure
to get the digestion to work well. The digesters emit ammonia in excess of air
pollution standards unless expensive ammonia stripping technology is used,
and according to a study done by Iowa State University and the University of
Iowa Study Group, anaerobic digesters or digester technology "do not reduce the
volume or nutrient concentration of manure significantly" Odors are reduced
from liquid manure but not from the facilities themselves which are a
significant source of not just odor but other emissions such as hydrogen
sulfide, ammonia and VOCs (volatile organic compounds).
If you look at the whole system of producing milk and
meat by confining thousands of animals in buildings, using
millions of gallons of clean ground water to substitute for labor, by liquefying
the feces and urine of those thousands of animals, it creates millions
of gallons of waste, not nutrients. Even If this waste could generate
electricity efficiently, it must be stored in lagoons on site until it is
trucked to a central facility, using energy and tearing up rural roads
(which have already had hundreds of 100 yr.+ old trees and native shrubs
removed on right-of-ways to allow large trucks to move quickly in our
area.) Remember, it is semi-truck after semi-truck of liquid
manure day after day in these rural areas.
There is still the issues of groundwater and surface water
contamination from the lagoons at the CAFOs (many have 2-3 lagoons or
more). The health effects to rural residents from emissions from the CAFO
facilities themselves from hydrogen sulfide, ammonia and particulate
will not be addressed by digester technology. Finally there is the effluent.
Nothing I have read has indicated this would be "sterile compost". The quantity
of manure is not reduced, it still must be put somewhere.
This is an "add on" technology to a very polluting system of
meat and milk production. We must get away from the liquid manure/lagoon system
of production. If this industrial park model of processing liquid manure is seen
as a solution to this polluting form of production then more CAFOs will be
attracted to the area and it will become an agricultural industrial zone that
tried to address only one part of a huge problem but did not look at
the whole system.
The solution is to put animals back on pasture and to stop
using the liquid system of production.
For information on an analysis on methane digesters see:
Statement by Grace Factory Farm project on Methane Digesters from June
the Iowa CAFO Air Quality Study p.208:
Kathy Melmoth, RN and farmer
Environmentally Concerned Citizens of South Central Michigan
.----- Original Message -----
Sent: Wednesday, March 03, 2004 12:46
Subject: E-M:/ Manure Power coming to
The article below is from last Sunday's Muskegon Chronicle. Can
anyone with knowledge of CAFO issues shed some light on this? I'm all for
putting the millions of gallons of CAFO waste to better use than polluting our
water & air, but I guess my immediate concern would be encouraging
the "build it and they will come" syndrome. I apologize for posting the
entire article here, I couldn't find a link to it anywhere. Thanks.
February 29, 2004
Local leaders pushing for manure power at county
By Dave Alexander
Chronicle Business Editor
In three short months, the head of Muskegon's new alternative energy
center has generated plenty of interest in developing a $1.3 million
manure-to-electricity demonstration plant.
Imad Mahawili-executive director of Grand Valley State
University's Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center-along with state
and federal legislators are pushing for a plant that would convert pig or cow
manure into methane that would be used to generate electricity.
The Muskego County Wastewater Management System is the
preferred location for the "bio-digester" and microturbine electric
combination, Mahawili said. Such a plant could help solve large farm
operations problems with disposal of animal wastes.
As for the manure-to-energy plant, it fits
nicely with what Muskegon County and state legislators are trying to
accomplish at the Wastewater Management System with a plan for a "large lot"
industrial site, county Public Works Director David Kendrick said.
The county hopes to use some of the thousands of acres
at the wastewater site south of Apple Avenue to develop an industrial park
that could be home to food processing and other agri-business operations.
Kendrick said the electricity generated by a waste-to-energy plant could be
used by the wastewater facility and by potential new industries.
That is the vision that Mahawili has shared with state
Rep. David Farhat, R-Norton Shores, who is trying to line up state
agricultural officials and Michigan livestock interests behind a low-tax
agricultural enterprise zone for the wastewater site. Federal efforts for
support also are being worked through U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra's office, Farhat
"The energy plant is perfect for the wastewater site,"
Farhat said. "We need to convince the Michigan Department of Agriculture that
this is a farm issue because the (energy) source is swine manure."
The wastewater site is a logical location because the
farm odors from a bio-digester would not be bothersome to residents and
businesses, Farhat and Mahawili said. The wastewater site is isolated and
already has a garbage disposal operation on site.
The wastewater site also is a large electrical user
and is located near large cow and pig farms in the eastern end of Muskegon
County. West Michigan farmers are willing to transport manure to a central
location, Mahawili said.
The plant would take a high-tech digestive system
using biological agents to break down the manure, producing methane gases. The
remaining material would be a sterile compost that could be sold as an
agricultural product, Mahawili said.
The GVSU energy center is working with Ennis
Associates LLC of Muskegon, a local chemical engineering consulting group.
Ennis is a two-year-old technical management consulting firm formed by Tom
McEnhill and Mike Krivitsky, who combine 70 years experience in the chemical
industry in Michigan.
Farmers in Muskegon and Zeeland areas are also helping
GVSU in planning the bio-mass plant, Mahawili said.
A manure-to-energy plant would need from three to five
workers to keep a 24-hour-a-day operation going, Mahawili said. A plant sized
for a large-farm operation could be duplicated across the state and nation, he
"I believe in this...I want to build it and
demonstrate it can work," Mahawili said. "You can't transfer this technology
or jobs to China. The farms are here."
The demonstration plant would be based on either a
500-cow or 5,000-pig supply of manure, Mahawili estimates. Some 61,000 pounds
of pig manure could produce 75 kilowatts of electricity per hour and 3,356
pounds of compost. Some 55,000 pounds of cow manure could produce 50 kilowatts
of electricity per hour and 2,828 pounds of compost.