A company called Farm Power Northwest is building two new methane digesters in Tillamook that will turn dairy cow poop into power. One will start operating next month, taking manure from 1,800 cows on eight dairies and turning it into 17.4 million kilowatt hours of electricity – enough to power nearly 1,500 homes a year.
Methane digesters are not new. The Port of Tillamook Bay has been operating a community digester since 2003. But the technology is getting more efficient, and it’s sprouting up in more and more locations around the Northwest as farmers and power producers realize it offers a many other benefits in addition to renewable energy.
The digesters essentially cook the methane out of cow manure and then burn the gas to generate electricity.
In the process, they reduce greenhouse gas emissions by burning the methane that would naturally be released from the manure. That reduction makes them eligible for some hefty carbon offset credits because methane is a greenhouse gas that is 23 times more effective at trapping heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide.
That’s not all. The digesting process also cleans the manure so dairy farmers can use it on their pastures with much less odor and less risk of polluted water runoff. And the leftover fibers can be used to make a clean mulch that farmers can use for cheap cow bedding. Continue reading