Huge Dairy Digester Turns Waste to Watts

DALLAS, US - Dean Foods Company has begun development of an anaerobic digester on the Big Sky Dairy farm near Gooding, Idaho.
calendar icon 23 May 2008
clock icon 2 minute read

The anaerobic digester will capture animal waste from the farm's approximately 4,700 dairy cows, reducing both odors and emissions of methane gas into the atmosphere. The resulting captured methane will then be used to generate electricity.

The project, which is expected to be operational by early 2009, will be owned and operated by a partnership between Dean Foods and AgPower Partners, LLC. AgPower Partners, LLC consists of an affiliate of Andgar Corporation, an affiliate of GHD, Inc. and Cenergy USA, Inc.

"Managing greenhouse gas emissions and animal waste is one of the dairy industry's biggest challenges," said Gregg Engles, Chairman and CEO of Dean Foods. "We are proud to have partnered with AgPower Partners to bring this important and sustainable dairy industry solution to the market. And we are very pleased that Big Sky Dairy has agreed to be our partnership's initial project."

The Big Sky Dairy digester project is expected to have generation capacity of more than one megawatt per hour of renewable "green" power, which will be sold into the local power grid and should provide enough renewable energy annually to power approximately 650 homes. In addition, the digester will produce a sanitary fiber by-product that can be used as clean animal bedding or as organic soil enhancement. By reducing emissions of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, the digester will also generate carbon credits and renewable energy credits.

"We are very excited about this project and the benefits it will provide to us in operating our farm," said Russel Visser of Big Sky Dairy. "We will be better able to control our waste and reduce our associated costs while improving the environment."

Dean Foods Company is the largest processor and distributor of milk and other dairy products in the United States. The Company sells milk and a full range of other dairy products under more than 50 well-known local and regional brands and a wide array of private labels. The Company's WhiteWave Foods division produces a variety of nationally branded dairy and dairy-related products, such as Horizon Organic(R) dairy products, Silk(R) soymilk, and International Delight(R) coffee creamers. WhiteWave Foods' Rachel's Organic(R) brand is the largest organic milk brand and second largest organic yogurt brand in the United Kingdom.

GHD, Inc. is the designer and patent-holder for the anaerobic digester system to be installed at the project. GHD, Inc. presently has approximately 30 similar systems operating in seven states used to digest a broad range of solid organic material including agricultural wastes such as dairy cow manure and parlor water (milking barn wash-up liquids). The firm has been designing and manufacturing anaerobic digesters since 1999.

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