Vanderhyde Dairy turning manure to energy in Va.
By ROCKY WOMACK
CHATHAM, Va. — A Virginia dairy has invested about $1.5 million to utilize manure from their cows and convert the waste into energy for consumer use.
In 2010, Vanderhyde Dairy in Chatham had an anaerobic digester system installed on their farm, which was their way of figuring out what to do with the thousands of gallons of waste formed on their farm.
They wanted to convert the 25,000 gallons of manure that comes from their nearly 1,000 cows daily into a renewable resource in the form of electricity.
They started selling that energy in August 2011 under the company name of Dairy Energy Inc.
On April 3, Vanderhyde Dairy and several sponsors held a discussion and walking tour on the project. They learned that the Vanderhydes started the project in 2009 by filling out paperwork so they could secure funding.
After many hours, days, weeks, and months of hard work, they were lucky enough to secure the funding, which came from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act; U.S. Department of Energy; Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy; the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission; U.S. Department of Rural Development; U.S. Department of Natural Resources Conservation Services; Pittsylvania County Soil & Water; and the Virginia Foundation for Agriculture, Innovation and Rural Sustainability.
Roy Vanderhyde says $100,000 of that funding came from the Value-Added Producer Grant awarded by the USDA. “We’re trying to do value-added products for the manure solids,” Vanderhyde says. “Trying to figure out a way to make more value from the byproducts we’re producing. The grant is to study what makes the most sense.”
The anaerobic digester converts manure from an organic form to an inorganic form, Vanderhyde says.
Before the digester was installed, the Vanderhydes would spread manure onto a field, but it would take two years for the soil to break it down into an inorganic form.
With the help of the digester, he says the manure will break down and be available within the same year he spreads it. The waste-to-energy product goes through a 21-day cycle, and as long as a dairy keeps feeding the digester manure each day during that cycle, then it will keep breaking down the waste.
The farm generates 25,000 gallons of waste daily and pumps it to the digester at 1,600 gallons a minute, says Jactone Ogejo, an Extension specialist and associate professor of Biological Systems Engineering at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va.
He adds that 15 feet of the manure inside the digester is broken down to produce gas. During the 21 days, he says the manure is heated to about 104 degrees Fahrenheit, which is beneficial.
Vanderhyde explained that heating at high temperatures kills any fly larvae concerns. This creates nearly a pathogen-free product once the manure leaves the digester.
Also because it is almost free of pathogens, he says the dairy will bed its cows in the digested solids, which will keep about 50 percent of the phosphorous at the dairy.
They will then spread the nitrogen and potassium on the land.
So far so good, but power prices right now hurt. “It’s operating just as it’s designed to do,” Vanderhyde says. “Wholesale power is way down right now so that’s not helping.”