Dairy cranks up manure power in Idaho

A new anaerobic digester on in Jerome, Idaho is converting waste from 6,000 cattle to power and is expected to generate about 1 million kilowatt-hours of electricity per month, or enough for 1,100 homes, officials said this week.

Bettancourt Dairy B6 Farm, owned and operated by Cargill Inc.'s Environmental Finance group, is the company's second in the state.

"We're proud to be creating a renewable source of electricity," said Bettancourt Chief Financial Officer Rick Onaindia in a statement. "Our digesters are also helping us reduce overall operating costs."

The San Joaquin Valley is no stranger to the practice. David Albers, president of the 2,800‐cow Vintage Dairy in western Fresno County, told Fresno Bee reporter Robert Rodriguez earlier this year that he is "trying to raise money to build a network of 40 digesters on dairies throughout the region, and he has been approached by several brokers interested in selling his clean‐air credits.

Dairies collect a lot of manure. That manure releases methane as it decomposes and is blamed for contributing to air pollution. Building systems to divert and use that gas is gaining converts.

Albers uses a system that collects methane in covered manure lagoons and processes it, Rodriguez wrote. The refined natural gas is fed into a pipeline and sold to Pacific Gas & Electric Co. Albers also operates BioEnergy Solutions, which helps build digesters.

"Concentrated Animal Feedlot Operations, aka CAFOs, aka Factory Farms, are the source of overwhelming pollution for the areas they're situated in -- imagine just how much waste 6,000 cows creates in a day, much less a month or a year or a decade," GreenBiz.com reported. "And Cargill has another CAFO nearby with 10,000 cows, which also has an anaerobic digester."