Team Up to Produce Bioenergy
By Sharon Durham
July 31, 2002
WASHINGTON, July 31--A
microturbine generator that runs on methane biogas from animal manure will be
evaluated as a source of electricity and heat for a research dairy farm in a
cooperative project of the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), the
U.S. Department of Energy's
Office of Bio-Power and the National Energy
Technology Laboratory. The microturbine system could generate as much as 26
kilowatts of electricity and approximately 400,000 British thermal units per
hour of heat for small dairy operations of less than 250 cows.
"This project is an example of the positive partnership between
U.S. Department of Agriculture and DOE to
combine resources and capabilities to develop renewable energy for on-farm use,
while also addressing an animal waste management issue," said Rodney J.
Brown, USDA deputy under secretary for research, education and economics.
"A system that operates efficiently and is cost-effective would provide an
alternative energy source for dairy farmers and help them to lower their
ARS is the chief scientific research agency of the USDA. ARS operates the
Henry A. Wallace Beltsville Agricultural Research Center (BARC) at Beltsville, Md., where the
project will be conducted.
"This system will help produce renewable energy to restore our nation's
energy vitality and protect the environment while enhancing the rural
economy," said Richard Moorer, deputy assistant secretary for technology
development within DOE's energy efficiency and renewable energy office.
"We're illustrating that agriculture and energy interests can work hand in
The Department of Energy provided the microturbine generator. Acting
research leader Louis Gasbarre and his colleagues in the
ARS Animal Manure
and By-Products Laboratory will oversee operation of the microturbine
system's test periods and provide analysis for manure, methane and greenhouse
This technology provides an alternate use of dairy cow manure. Tons of
manure are produced by the 1,400-pound dairy cows and pumped from the barn into
an anaerobic digester, where the liquid and solids are separated. The solids go
to composting, and the liquids are further processed in the digester to produce
a biogas that contains methane. The methane gas is captured and used in the
microturbine generator, and the remaining liquid--with odor significantly
reduced--is used for fertilizing the crops at BARC.
The ARS research team will also evaluate the technology's environmental and
economic impacts. If this type of system proves to be efficient and
cost-effective, it could provide an alternative energy source for dairy
farmers. Energy costs are a large portion of dairy operating costs. The system
also could help reduce methane emissions that contribute to greenhouse gas
concentrations in the atmosphere.