Bioenergy

First Month of Waste to Energy in Central Vermont

Vermont is one of a few states known for its cow population, and Central Vermont Public Service (CVPS) is taking advantage of the smellier cow aspects for its power needs. Customers in the area will see the first charges for the CVPS Cow Power program on their October statements. The charges are a way for Vermonters to support renewable energy and Vermont dairy farms through a waste to energy project.

The Vermont Public Service Board (PSB) approved CVPS Cow Power in August as a measure to develop renewable energy sources in Vermont and create a market for energy generated by burning methane that is collected from cow manure. Vermont dairy farms have purchased generators that run on the methane, and CVPS hopes the program for renewable energy generation in the region will provide incentives to dairy farmers to get into the power business. It may sound like an outlandish form of renewable energy, but it’s in fact a rather effective technology. It takes advantage of methane, an available resource that usually dissipates into the atmosphere, and which scientists say is ten times more detrimental to the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. “Cow power will provide an income stream to participating farmers, help reduce some water-quality impacts of raw manure through the introduction of innovative manure technologies, and significantly reduce manure odors, particularly during spreading,” said Dave Dunn, a senior energy consultant at CVPS. “Participating farms may also reduce bedding costs by using dry byproducts of the process in place of sawdust or other bedding.” In addition to PSB approval, the program has received the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets’ Commissioner’s Choice Seal of Quality. Customers can purchase 25 percent, 50 percent, or all of their electricity through the program. An extra cost of 4 cents per kWh is charged for program participation. Customers using 500 kWh per month who choose to receive 25 percent of their power under the Cow Power rider would pay only $5 a month more. At 100 percent, the charge would be $20 per month. For every kilowatt-hour requested by customers and provided by a Vermont farm, CVPS will pay the farmer the market price for energy plus the CVPS Cow Power charge of 4 cents for the environmental benefits of the energy. Blue Spruce Farm in Bridport will be the first farm to provide energy for the program. Blue Spruce has about 1,200 total head of cows on the farm. That’s enough cow manure to produce 1.7 million kWh a year, according to CVPS. “We’re moving quickly to take advantage of CVPS Cow Power,” Earl Audet said. “We think the benefits to the farm and the state will be significant.” If not enough kWh are available from participating CVPS farms, the utility will attempt to acquire and retire Renewable Energy Certificates from other regional renewable generation. If no certificates are available in the regional market for 4 cents per kWh, the company will deposit Cow Power payments into the CVPS Renewable Development Fund. An independent board consisting of consumer and renewable energy advocates, a farmer, a utility regulator and CVPS will oversee the fund, which will provide incentives to farmers to stimulate further renewable farm generation in the CVPS service area.