‘Cow Power’ Considered by Connecticut Senate

Manure happens, and a bill (SB-999) just approved by the Environment Committee of  the Connecticut Senate could help turn “cow patties”  into a source of renewable energy on dairy farms in the Constitution State, according to an April 7 report by the Public News Service.

There are 111 registered dairy farms in the state. The so-called “Cow Power” bill, sponsored by state Senator Ted Kennedy, Jr. (D-District 12), would create pilot projects on three of those farms, using anaerobic digesters, a type of composter, to collect methane from decomposing cow manure and convert it into bio-gas.

“The goal is to deal with the problem of animal waste running into our rivers and streams, and ultimately, Long Island Sound,” Kennedy added in an interview with the Public News Service. “And secondly, it provides an important new source of revenue for farmers.”

The bill also would create an easier, cheaper, and faster state and local permitting process for farmers who are interested in adopting this technology, based on an April 4 report by Branford Seven.

“‘Cow Power’ is a term for the conversion of cow manure into electricity, enabling farmers to make money by adding a new, desperately-needed source of farm revenue,” said Kennedy told the Branford, Connecticut, news outlet. “Instead of storing tons of manure in open cesspools that contaminate the water supply and release tons of climate-destroying methane into the atmosphere, farmers can place the animal waste in an anaerobic digester located on their property.”

Farmers could sell the gas or electricity produced by burning the gas to utility companies. What’s more, Kennedy points out that processing cow manure on the farm would have an additional environmental benefit.

“The methane that naturally comes from animal waste is one of the lead destroyers of our atmosphere, and so, it also reduces the amount of methane that escapes as greenhouse gasses,” he explained to the news service.

The farms in the pilot project will be required to use manure as no less than 85 percent of the waste that goes into the digesters.

Kennedy adds that the technology for processing farm waste as a source of renewable energy is already being adopted in other agricultural states. “There are over 250 farm-based anaerobic digesters across the country, including in Massachusetts, Vermont, Pennsylvania, because they do solve multiple problems,” said Kennedy.

He also says the pilot project would help establish that the process can achieve its goals, as well as helping farmers with the logistics of permitting and installation.

“This is a natural process that kills pathogens, recycles nutrients, and more,” said Henry Talmage, Executive Director of the Connecticut Farm Bureau, at the public hearing for SB-999. “In addition to generating electricity, installing agricultural anaerobic digesters destroys methane and reduces overall carbon emissions, making it outperform other Zero-REC emitting technologies.” The goal of the pilot program is also to identify the best technologies, examine economic risks, and modernize Connecticut’s future digester permitting pathway.

Now that SB-999 has passed the Environment Committee, it moves to the floor of the state Senate for further action.

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