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"Cow Power" Coming to Connecticut?

Animal waste from farms is a source of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. (Cgoodwin/Wikimedia Commons)
Animal waste from farms is a source of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. (Cgoodwin/Wikimedia Commons)
April 7, 2017

HARTFORD, Conn. – Manure happens, and a bill now in the state Senate could help turn it into a source of renewable energy on dairy farms in Connecticut.

There are 111 registered dairy farms in the state. The so-called "Cow Power" bill would create pilot projects on three of those farms, using anaerobic digesters, a type of composter, to collect methane from decomposing cow manure and convert it into bio-gas.

The sponsor of the legislation, state Sen. Ted Kennedy, Jr., D-Dist. 12, says the project would accomplish several things.

"The goal is to deal with the problem of animal waste running into our rivers and streams, and ultimately, Long Island Sound," he said. "And secondly, it provides an important new source of revenue for farmers."

Farmers could sell the gas or electricity produced by burning the gas to utility companies. The Cow Power bill has the unanimous approval of the Joint Committee on the Environment.

Kennedy points out that processing cow manure on the farm would have an additional environmental benefit.

"The methane that naturally comes from animal waste is one of the lead destroyers of our atmosphere, and so, it also reduces the amount of methane that escapes as greenhouse gasses," he explained.

The farms in the pilot project will be required to use manure as no less than 85 percent of the waste that goes into the digesters.

Kennedy adds that the technology for processing farm waste as a source of renewable energy is already being adopted in other agricultural states.

"There are over 250 farm-based anaerobic digesters across the country, including in Massachusetts, Vermont, Pennsylvania, because they do solve multiple problems," said Kennedy.

He also says the pilot project would help establish that the process can achieve its goals, as well as helping farmers with the logistics of permitting and installation.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - CT