Saturday, October 4, 2008

U.S. Farmers Save By Installing Manure Digesters

Popular Mechanics has posted an article interviewing dairy farmer Shawn Saylor. Saylor describes the multiple benefits of the anarobic biodigester system he installed. I've always thought that there was an archetype of a small, savvy, independent citizen-farmer at the heart of the image of a pragmatic can-do attitude of America. It's great to see that showing in the article.

The digester system is fundamentally improving Saylor's bottom line dairy finances while providing a number of side benefits. For example, on the finance side, the digester provides electric, heat, and fertilizer. It makes him money by offsetting his electric bill, fuel for heat, in addition to putting electric back into the grid. Incidentally, it also reduces the dairy manure waste stream into the watershed while also diverting a lot of gases which would otherwise enter the atmosphere driving global climate change. I am speculating a little here on the overall benefit - the gases are still burnt, generating carbon dioxide, but I'm guessing that's less harmful that methane going directly into the atmosphere. The electricity put back into the grid would offset other carbon sources that would have been used anyway for the farm and his neighbors...

This installation was helped by a government grant partially offsetting the cost of the system. To me this is a great example of how government should be involved in accelerating common sense green technologies. Or in economic terms, reducing the cost of social externalities while improving the efficiency of businesses. The cost of the grant is offset by the long term efficiency in the dairy business which benefits the government in improved long term tax base.

(article from Popular Mechanics, Creative Commons photo from Flickr user foxypar4)