More U.S. livestock and poultry production systems are adding energy processing to their daily routines. Increasingly, pork, beef, dairy and poultry farms are converting animal manure into electricity. The benefits, of course are multi-fold; not only does the practice produce useable energy, thereby reducing farm's energy costs, but it also helps reduce odor and enhances manure-management practices.
Among the options in use are anaerobic digesters, which have been around for years, but are gaining acceptance. These systems extract methane gas from animal manure, convert it to electricity and use it to power generators. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports that the number of manure digesters in place on U.S. farms to generate electricity has more than doubled in the past two years.
Farms use the electricity that they need to power on-site operations and then sell extra supplies to energy companies. In general, today's methane digesters produce enough electricity to power more than 20,000 average-size homes in a year.
USDA has designated $1.5 million for three manure digester projects in Ohio. There will no doubt be more in the works as some states also are providing energy-development incentives for agriculture.