Tuesday, January 20th, 2009
By Nancy Allen
Local farmers to look into manure power
  Mercer and Darke counties have the highest concentration of large livestock operations in the state and subsequently, an abundance of manure.
Utilizing methane digesters - devices that turn animal waste into electricity - could help farmers manage their manure, use it to power their farms and sell the excess electricity.
On Thursday there will be a program at 9 a.m. at St. Paul's Catholic Church fellowship hall in Sharpsburg on using methane digesters to create energy. Ag business and community leaders and interested residents from the two-county area are invited. The event, sponsored by the Ohio Farm Bureau, will last until around 1 p.m.
The program will include speakers Nick Fortune of Microgy, a company working with methane digesters; Tom Menke of Menke Consulting, Greenville, who will speak on nutrient management; Chris Weaver from Bridgewater Dairy, a large dairy in Northwest Ohio that uses a methane digester to generate electricity; and Matt Berry from Midwest Electric, a cooperative based in St. Marys, who will talk about the options for electricity generation from a digester.
Midwest Electric already is working with Fort Recovery poultry farmer Jim Wenning who installed a methane digester on his farm in 2007. The farmer sells the electricity - enough to power 300 homes - to the co-op. The digester provides electricity to Midwest customers in Sharpsburg and some outside Fort Recovery.
Wenning's digester converts poultry manure into two bioproducts: biogas, which is burned to create electricity, and a biosolid, which is used for bedding and fertilizer. Midwest officials spent a couple years working out the details, such as means of distribution, transmission systems and a rate agreement for the electricity.
Berry said the methane digester became operational in October, but was shut down about a month ago while a new centrifuge is installed. The centrifuge is used to separate more of the solids from the manure.
"Their total production has been around 400 kilowatts," Berry said of the Wenning methane digester. "They seem pretty hopeful the new centrifuge will get them back up to a capacity of 1,800 kilowatts."
Berry said Midwest Electric has fielded calls seeking more information on methane digesters since the Wennings installed their system. With this first project under their belt, Midwest officials hope the process will become easier for subsequent livestock producers looking to install methane digesters.
"There is a lot of potential in southern Mercer County because of the large number of poultry operations there," he said. "Southern Mercer County is our biggest service area as far as kilowatt hours."
Berry said the technology could help improve local water quality in the future because less manure would be applied to fields and the biosolid, if applied, is cleaner than manure, he said.

If you go:
What:  Progam on using methane digesters to create energy
When:  Thursday, 9 a.m. to noon
Where:  St. Paul's Catholic Church fellowship hall, Sharpsburg
For more info: Contact the farm bureau at 1-877-775-7642
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