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Sunday, 07 December 2014 23:41

Spart plans Coopersville biodigester at dairy farm

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Grand Rapids-based alternative energy developer Sustainable Partners LLC (Spart) has been selected to build its second biodigester in Coopersville.

The 1.4 megawatt anaerobic biodigester will allow Coopersville-based dairy producer Beaver Creek Farms to turn its waste into energy. The technology is still quite new in the United States, but it has been implemented for decades in Europe, said Spart Managing Partner Greg Northrup.

“We are trying to do some innovative things as it relates to manure management,” Northrup said, adding that the process involves putting waste into a tank with no oxygen and breaking down the manure into a methane gas. “It’s no different than if we put organic waste into a landfill.”

The biodigester is one of four projects approved by Consumers Energy in the latest round of proposals for the Experimental Advanced Renewables Program (EARP). According to Northrup, Beaver Creek will be able to produce its own electricity through this process, with the remaining energy sold to Consumers Energy.

“The revenue from selling electricity is a nice byproduct of the manure management practices our farm will achieve from this project,” Bill Henke, president of Beaver Creek, said in a statement. “There’s lots of benefits to the farm by sending the manure through the digester. We retain the nutrients for land application, but lose the odor. We reduce our volume of manure since some of it is consumed in the digester and there’s other things like the potential to use the solid output of the digester to bed cows and just a general reduction in the hassles of manure management.”

Currently, the project is undergoing its final design and capital budgeting, Northrup said. Construction is expected to begin in April with a budget of $8 million to $9 million. The biodigester is planned to have a 20-year life span and generate $15-20 million in revenue over its lifetime, he added.

West Michigan companies Rockford Construction Company, Williams & Works Inc., Progressive AE Inc., Varnum LLP and BDO LLP are all involved in the project. Spart previously developed a similar biodigester project in Lowell, just east of Grand Rapids.

The main benefit of this technology, Northrup said, is that it allows a farm such as Beaver Creek to constantly produce energy. The technology is used with some frequency in Wisconsin, due to its cluster of dairy farms.

However, it’s just hitting its stride here in Michigan, Northrup said.

“We’re a bit of a cottage industry (in America) and about 20 years behind Europe,” he said. “We hope we are on the cutting edge.”

Read 3879 times Last modified on Wednesday, 10 December 2014 10:36

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