A family-owned American dairy farm is generating enough electricity to power 1,000 homes all by using product just laying around the farm: cow poo. With the help of the Environmental Protection Agency’s AgStar unit, the farm was able to turn waste into riches while also saving the environments.
Family Farm in America Changing Cow Poop To Cash Profits
Homestead Dairy is a family farm in Plymouth, Indiana that has been in operation since 1945. But in October 2013, the farmers changed the game when it comes to dairy farming.
The American farm invested in a biogas recovery system to transform cow poo and other waste into electricity, which means profits for the farm and a load off greenhouse gases for the environment.
After installing the biogas recovery system, the farm was able to generate enough electricity to power over 1,000 homes. A local utility company handles the distribution while paying the farmers for all of that hard earned power.
Of course, there are other benefits besides the monetary ones. According to Floyd Houin, a member of the family, one of the main factors for installing the system was to help control the smell for the neighbors. Now if that doesn’t show some good, ol’ American values, we don’t know what will.
Cash Aside, the Biogas Recovery System Helps Save the Environment
While making some extra cash is a bonus, another important deciding factor for the family of farmers was properly taking care of the land and water at the farm.
Other than the stench, livestock farms also produce an effluent usually collected in open lagoons that have a major impact on the environments thanks to the emissions of methane and carbon dioxide. These lagoons can also leak or overflow into the groundwater during heavy storms.
But luckily, the farm family at Homestead Dairy were able to negate these less-than-pleasant effects of owning a livestock farm by setting up an anaerobic digester. This giant digester is basically a shed that traps both the smell and the greenhouse gases, using the heat to speed up the process of decomposition.
It’s with these anaerobic digesters that cash can be made and the environment can be saved.
A Better Source of Electricity Lays in The Hands of Farmers Across the U.S.
Thanks to Homestead’s environmental friendly nature, they and the other farms equipped with biogas recovery systems have eliminated a whopping three million tons of greenhouse gas emissions in just one year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
With over 8,000 dairy and swine farms in the U.S., the EPA estimates that the amount of electricity generated by the farms could power over a million homes. In essence, this would be the same impact as taking four million automobiles off the road.
However, with a solution there’s always another problem and with biogas recovery, that new problem comes in the form of financing. With such a monumental upfront cost (around $6 million if you’re wanting numbers), a load of continuous maintenance for upkeep, and stingy utility companies unwilling to pay out, the biogas recovery systems may not seem like a sound investment for a bank loan.
Though not for lack of problems, when the systems are up and operational, they do in fact pay off as seen in the shining example of Homestead Dairy.
The Benefits of Digesters and Why Other Farms Should Consider Them
Homestead’s list of good things the digester has churned up for them isn’t limited to cash, a working relationship with the electricity company, decreased odors and less greenhouse gases. The digester also provides the family with a better yield of corn from the 4,500 acres of fields on the farm.
In addition to the environmental savings, the farmers save on the cost of manure as the digester turns the manure into nutrient-rich fertilizer.
While the Homestead farm may seem to have had some luck with a grant that helped sponsor the cost and a local power company interested in expanding energy supplies, they also had to put in hard work to keep their business profitable. This includes hours of maintenance on the digester and creative solutions, such as offering food processing plants lower rates to dump their waste (more fuel for their digester!) rather than at landfills that charge more.
The family says it will took about five years to pay off the investment, but they strongly believe in the powers of the facility. In fact, they see such power and value they are planning on building a second facility.
Though the technology does seem costly at first, the amount a farm can save (and generate in extra income) is perhaps a fact to consider when a farmer can turn cow poo into profits for both the farm and the environment.