Category: Electricity

I came across an article on how biomethane from various organic wastes is being tapped on the local scale in rural China and on the municipal scale in Beijing.

Beginning in 2000, the Agricultural Ministry of China has fostered sustainable development by promoting integrated biogas technologies with the goals of protecting ecology and the environment while also increasing farmers’ income. Full-scale projects have been implemented in over 1000 rural counties.

Construction is based on the family unit and is coupled with educational guidance on how to eliminate inefficient crop production practices, and to effectively utilize land, solar energy and biological resources. Rural methane power generation is the most significant piece of this energy-revolution program.

Structural improvements to toilets and animal sheds allow for the collection of human and animal wastes, rice straw and daily trash which serves as the raw material to generate methane. Methane ranges and cook stoves, heating and lighting fixtures powered by home-grown methane do not emit smoke and dust, thus eliminating health hazards often associated with burning raw waste materials or coal.

The liquid and solid remains after the fuel is siphoned off serves as fertilizer to enrich the soil, prevent plant diseases and control pests. Completing the natural cycle by returning materials to the earth in this way increases crop production and eliminates costs of fertilizers and pesticides. It also helps to build the rural economy.

Methane power generation has also been extended into cities in China. Methane is now being collected from the Asuwei Landfill in the Changping District of Beijing and used to generate power. This is the first city landfill methane in Northern China. Not only is it generating useful electricity, it is helping to eliminate odor problems and resolving safety concerns posed by methane emissions from decomposing organic wastes. While improving the environment in surrounding areas, this project is also providing enough electrical power to serve 17,000 families for one year in Beijing!


Kalispell Biomass Bonanza

News was published yesterday on a new state-of-the-art facility utilizing forest-product waste to generate steam for operations and electricity for the power grid. As reported by Ryan Murray in The Daily Inter Lake,  Stoltze Land and Lumber Company near Kalispell, Montana has invested about $22 million and 14 months on the five-story co-generation facility.

The plant itself generates steam to run Stoltze’s lumber-drying kilns, sawmill buildings and electricity-generating turbine.  Sawdust and forest fallings are blended into a mulch-like biomass fed into the boiler system.

Extensive permitting went into getting the plant up and running. The Montana Department of Environmental Quality and Department of Renewable Energy were extremely helpful in the process, according to Stoltze Vice President Chuck Roady.

Flathead Electric and Bonneville Power Administration have signed seven interconnection agreements with Stoltze to put the power on the grid. The company will receive its first check from the energy cooperative in early November. The lumber company is also receiving renewable energy credits as part of the deal.

The plant has the ability to generate 2.5 megawatts of electricity every year, enough to power 2500 homes.

“[Stoltze] has always been leading in green or renewable technology,” Roady said. “So I wouldn’t say this is a new direction for us, but it’s certainly a new step. We’re hoping to pay it off in a little over 10 years.”

More information:

MD Clean Bay Project

In Maryland farm animal waste could become a source of electricity for people. A state program called the Clean Bay Power project intends to use animal poop as a fuel for creating methane which is burned to spin turbines that generate electricity. The technology is known as a biogas digester. Maryland’s program requires the new proposed biogas digester plant to be able to generate ten megawatts of electricity. The program will also reduce the amount of chicken litter and farm animal manure entering the Chesapeake Bay. Nitrogen, phosphorous and other nutrients from animal farms get washed into the regional watershed and wind up in the bay where they damage the marine ecology. Oxygen-deprived dead zones in the bay result from excessive amounts of such farm-related chemicals.

“Maryland is leading the nation’s efforts in clean energy and sustainability, and our state’s growing green jobs sector is vital to our ability to create jobs and compete globally in the new economy,” said the state’s governor. (Source:

Reducing animal waste entering the bay could also save money because trying to do clean-ups once it is already there is very expensive. The old adage an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure applies in this situation to the tune of about five to ten billion dollars. That is the cost estimate for the state’s proposed program to clean waste from the bay by 2017.

A company called Fibrowatt has indicated an interest in submitting a proposal for a plant. Their design and construction cost is about $300 million. Permitting and construction would require about forty months. This company already has one such facility operating in Minnesota, but it initially showed excessive air pollution from its smokestacks. The problem apparently was fixed, and would actually help improve the design of their next plant it has been reported.

Already about $850,000 has been granted to local farmers for manure-to-power plants by the federal government.

Municipal plant power

Fort Lauderdale City Commission has granted initial approval to Power Green Energy, a start-up company in Florida,  to install an anaerobic digestion system at the city’s waste-water treatment plant.

The plant will generate electricity to feed into Florida Power & Light’s powerlines by mid-2012. The project will generate enough electricity for 1000 homes.

The anaerobic digesters will also upgrade the biosolids remaining to eliminate pathogens, bacteria and viruses.

I hope they are going to use the biosolids for soil enrichment!

For more information:

Google buys into Duke’s pig-power project

Google is offsetting its energy footprint by investing in Duke University’s open-source  pilot project to generate biomethane from concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). The Duke Carbon Offsets Initiative and its partners built an innovative waste management system at Loyd Ray Farms in Yadkin County, outside of Winston-Salem, NC. The system utilizes anaerobic digestion of hog wastes to generate electricity.

The system reduces greenhouse gas emissions, generates electricity, makes for a healthier local environment and benefits farmers and communities economically. Through this pilot, Duke is showing how these projects can make economic sense for North Carolinians and lead to dramatic reductions in emissions over the long term to develop open-source anaerobic digestion systems for hog farms.  operations.

More information:

Midwest Rural Energy Council

From the Midwest Rural Energy Council’s website:

Anaerobic digesters convert the energy stored in organic materials present in manure into biogas.  Biogas can be fed directly into a gas-fired combustion turbine.  The type of turbine most often used for small-scale electricity production is the microturbine.  Combustion of biogas converts the energy stored in the bonds of the molecules of the methane contained in the biogas into mechanical energy as it spins a turbine.  The mechanical energy produced by biogas combustion in an engine or microturbine spins a turbine that produces a stream of electrons, or, electricity.  In addition, waste heat from these engines can provide heating or hot water for use on farm.

As a fuel, biogas composed of 65% methane yields about 650 Btu per cubic foot.  Often used when designing systems for the anaerobic digestion of manure, these energy estimates can predict the amount of power production per animal.  General estimates predict one kilowatt of electricity production requires five to eight dairy cows.

Lots more good information:

Statistics from the American Biogas Council

  • Over 150 anaerobic digesters are operating on farms in the U.S. (, primarily at dairies and some hog farms. Farm digesters reduce odors associated with manure, as well as pathogens. In addition to generating electricity, heat from gas engines is captured and utilized in farm operations. Many farms also are accepting food waste streams from area generators, which provides a revenue stream and boosts biogas production.
  • More than 1,500 municipal wastewater treatment plants have anaerobic digesters to process the solids stream. Increasingly, these treatment plants are capturing the biogas to offset electricity and natural gas use, savings that go directly to the cities’ bottom line. A handful of facilities are being designed in the U.S. to process organics such as food waste and yard trimmings from the municipal solid waste stream. In September, construction of the first facility got underway in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.


CA Dairy Farm Biomethane

This California dairy farm is using anaerobic digestion of cow manure to generate the electricity needed for its operations, and produces enough excess electricity to sell back to the grid. It is also using the heat generated in the digestive process to heat water for its operations. There are plans to feed exhaust from plant operations into algae ponds which can be harvested to produce more biomethane, and avert the need to buy diesel fuel. The video includes some discussion of regulatory compliance.

The Climate Change and Emissions Management Corp. (CCEMC)  has announced $15 million in new funding for biomethane and biofuel projects in Alberta, Canada. The CCEMC is funded by Alberta’s Climate Change and Emissions Management Fund which was created by the Climate Change and Emissions Management Act. Companies that exceed their emission reduction targets pay into the fund which is used to establish alternative=energy and energy-efficiency programs.

One new program CCEMC is funding is the Slave Lake Pulp Bio-Methanation Project. This will integrate an energy-efficient anaerobic digestion system into the mill’s existing effluent treatment system. This new digestion system will both treat mill effluent and generate biomethane. It will significantly reduce energy, chemical consumption and sludge generation. The biomethane produced will be used to generate electricity and heat for use in the pulping process.

How cool is that!

Poultry power in the Netherlands

Poultry Power is big news in Holland!

The world’s largest  biomass plant to run exclusively on chicken manure has come onstream in the Netherlands! Constructed by Delta, the Dutch multi-utility company, it has a 36.5 megawatt capacity to convert about 440,000 tons of chicken manure into 270 million kilowatt hours of electricity each year. It will transform the burden of high-cost waste processing into enough electricity to power 90,000 homes. It appears the utility is burning the waste rather than using anaerobic digestion to extract the energy value, since the news is reporting that the ash remaining will be used for fertilizer and other agricultural products.

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