By Stan Maddux
REYNOLDS, Ind. - The production of renewable energy at an Indiana farm has taken a major step in the role already being played there to fight climate change.
BioTown Biogas has activated a new digester and processing facility about 30 miles north of Lafayette.
What’s billed as one of the largest on-farm bio-digester facilities in the world began operating on March 22. The new digester and processing facility is at the BioTown Ag farm, which has space for up to 5,500 head of beef cattle and 800 head of hogs at Reynolds.
Manure from the farm and other livestock operations along with food and other forms of agriculture waste are fed into the plant, which uses the material to produce electricity and natural gas. Organic forms of industrial waste are also processed into renewable forms of clean energy.
The new facility is expected to generate more than 42 million kilowatt hours of electricity and over three million gallons of natural gas annually. The average U.S. household uses more than 10,000 kilowatts of power yearly, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Lt. Governor Suzanne Crouch, who also serves as Indiana’s secretary of agriculture and rural development, hailed the development as part of the beginning of a new era in clean energy production. “What they’re doing here and what they’re going to do in the future is they’re going to reduce the carbon output that would be the equivalent as if we planted five million trees in Indiana,” she said.
BioTown Biogas General Manager Chad Hoerr said the facility represents a major milestone in what’s been a long journey “to prepare for a lower carbon future in farming that, at first, probably sounded like a pipe dream.”
The process called anaerobic digestion includesd cooking the materials to produce biogas then converted into methane gas.The methane gas after hydrogen sulfide, moisture and other contaminants are removed powers the generators that produce electricity that goes on the grid. Also produced is “pipeline quality” natural gas that can be offered to utility companies, according to company officials. Thee Northern Indiana Public Service Company, for example, is buying the electricity to supply customers.
United Energy Trading based in Denver with offices in Chicago and Columbus, Ohio is purchasing the natural gas.
Also coming out of the digester is a liquid organic fertilizer that when applied in farm fields replenishes the micronutrients not available in most commercial fertilizers, officials said.
Water from the digester can also provide irrigation for plants while solids made from the process can be used as bedding for cattle or become potting soil for retailer gardening outlets.
The confined animal feeding operation was already fully powered by energy produced on the farm before the new digester came online.
“Our livestock operations are zero-discharge CAFO’s that are compliant with EPA regulations and permitted by IDEM,” BioTown Ag states on its website.