for ABC News on Oct. 14, 2007
PETALUMA, Sep. 25, 2007 (BCN) - Manure from 240 cows at an organic Petaluma, California dairy farm is being converted into renewable electricity.
The Petaluma City Council and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency were at the St. Anthony Farm today where Sonoma County's first methane digester went on line.
The digester will use bacteria to break down manure from the cows and produce biogas which will then be converted into renewable electricity in an adjacent generator.
At the heart of the system is a 27,000-square-foot covered manure lagoon digester. Flushed manure from the organic dairy and wastewater from the farm's creamery will be pumped to the 2.3 million gallon covered lagoon. Microbes will then convert the organic matter into 17,000 cubic feet per day of methane rich biogas.
The gas will then be channeled into a pipeline into an 80 kilowatt generator that will operate 12 hours a day. The electricity will provide a substantial portion of the dairy's milking center's and creamer's needs and the heat from the generator's engine and exhaust system will be captured to produce hot water for the farm.
Wayne Nastri, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's administrator for the Pacific Southwest Region, said, "Using biogas decreases greenhouse gas emissions, produces renewable energy and safeguards local air and water quality. The EPA is pleased to see the St. Anthony Dairy digester come on-line -it's good for the environment and the farmers."
The EPA provided technical assistance under its AgStar program to Western United Resource Development. AgStar is a voluntary program that encourages the use of waste methane recovery systems on dairy and swine farms. The systems have reduced methane by about 1.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent while providing enough renewable energy to power more then 20,000 homes, the EPA said.
St. Anthony Farm has been operated by the St. Anthony Foundation since 1952. The Foundation provides a place for the homeless and impoverished to recover from alcohol and drug addiction. Participants work on the lush 315-acre farm outside Petaluma. The farm became certified organic in 1999.
Each day 1,800 gallons of organic milk produced at the farm is made available to consumers through the Clover-Stornetta organic line of dairy products. The farm also produces organic fruits and vegetables for farm residents and other local food programs.