September 23, 2009

Plant converts cow manure to electricity

A plant that turns cow manure into electrical power has opened in Washington state, developers said.

Backers say plants like the one built in Rexville by Farm Power solve two environmental problems -- keeping huge quantities of manure produced by dairy farms out of waterways and reducing dependence on oil, reported Tuesday.

Three plants that transform liquid manure to methane and then to electrical power have already been built in Washington.

The Farm Power plant went online Aug. 30 and is now running at 80 percent of its peak capacity. Gov. Christine Gregoire is scheduled to visit Monday for a ceremony celebrating its startup.

Unlike the previous plants, the new one can take manure from more than one farm, allowing smaller operations to contribute. The plant can also convert some food waste to electricity.

The plant works by holding liquid manure in a large tank, where it produces methane, which is then burned. A bit over 3 gallons of liquid manure is needed for one kilowatt-hour of electricity.