Rutland, Vermont [RenewableEnergyAccess.com] Central Vermont Public Service (CVPS) Cow Power, a direct farm-to-consumer renewable energy program that works with dairy farmers to process their cow manure and farm waste to generate electricity, announced that four Vermont farms received grant offers totaling $666,000 from the CVPS Renewable Development Fund. The funds will help defray the cost of building new farm-based electric-generating systems to support the state’s largest renewable energy program.“These grants will help develop 8,400 megawatt-hours of clean renewable energy right here in Vermont,” said Bob Young, CVPS president. “That’s enough energy to supply 1,395 average homes using 500 kWh per month.” Farms in Sheldon, Fairlee, West Pawlet and St. Albans will receive the grants from the CVPS Renewable Development Fund, set up in 2004 to encourage farm owners to develop new renewable generation through CVPS Cow Power, which is said to be the only such program in the country. The farms need Vermont Public Service Board approval to interconnect the generators, but all four hope to be online later this year: — Green Mountain Dairy Farm in Sheldon, with 1,250 cows expected to produce 1.7 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year — Montagne Farms in St. Albans, with 1,200 cows expected to produce 1.7 million kWh of energy per year — Newmont Farms LLC in Fairlee, with 1,020 cows expected to produce 1.4 million kWh per year — Deer Flats Farm in West Pawlet, which plans to use surplus crops and 210 cows to produce 3.6 million kWh per year. “The Cow Power program is a great example of Vermonters working together to reduce pollution and help the Vermont economy,” said Sandra Levine of the Conservation Law Foundation, a member of the CVPS Renewable Development Fund’s executive committee. “The ingenuity of many Vermonters has made this a success, and it shows how promising renewable energy is for our future.” More than 2,500 CVPS customers have enrolled in the program, which provides farms with new manure management options, environmental benefits and income. The process reduces emissions of methane, which is roughly 20 times more effective than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas trapping heat in the atmosphere. To generate the biogas fuel, manure is held in a sealed concrete tank at the same temperature as cow stomachs, 101 degrees. Bacteria digest the volatile components of the manure, creating biogas while killing pathogens and weed seeds. The biogas, which is part methane, fuels an engine/generator, and the energy is put onto CVPS’s power lines for delivery to customers. “We are very pleased about the continued growth of Cow Power. This is a terrific triple play — additional renewable power sources, environmental benefits and generating additional revenue for our vital farming community,” said Public Service Department Commissioner David O’Brien. “These projects are small steps in resolving our energy future.” CVPS’s first Cow Power producer, Blue Spruce Farm in Bridport, has been generating energy for over a year, serving as an example to other farms. The Audet family, which operates Blue Spruce, says they have a new revenue stream, eliminated more than $60,000 in bedding costs annually by using dry solids left over from the digestion process, and substantially cut fuel bills by using waste heat from the generator to heat the office, the milking parlor, and hot water used for washing the milking equipment. “Cow Power has done everything we’d hoped it would do for us, and more,” Earl Audet said. “It’s given us a new income stream, reduced our costs, provided us options for handling our manure, and virtually eliminated the odor of manure spreading.” CVPS customers can sign up to get all, half or a quarter of their electrical energy through CVPS Cow Power. Customers pay a premium of 4 cents per kWh for CVPS Cow Power, which goes to participating farm-producers, to purchase renewable energy credits (RECs) when enough farm energy isn’t available, or to the CVPS Renewable Development Fund. Farm producers are also paid 95 percent of the market price for the electricity sold to CVPS.