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Officials hail poultry farm facility turning litter to energy
By JONATHAN CRIBBS
RHODESDALE, Md. (Feb. 21, 2017) — Maryland has enough farm acreage to spread the poultry industry’s manure without much struggle — for now.
“One day, (that acreage) might not be there, and something is going to have to be done about it,” state Agriculture Secretary Joe Bartenfelder said last week, standing next to Gov. Larry Hogan on a Dorchester County poultry farm.
Bartenfelder and Hogan were there to celebrate a potential solution to that problem should it ever arrive — a new poultry waste-to-energy facility from Biomass Heating Solutions Limited, an Irish agricultural technology company.
The facility, deployed first in the United Kingdom, uses a technology called fluidized bed combustion that burns manure into energy sold back to the electrical grid or used to warm poultry houses.
It’s also considered a potential environmental victory as an alternative use for manure.
It claims to improve bird health and growth and boost a poultry farm’s bottom line by producing saleable electricity and an ash byproduct that can be sold as fertilizer.
“We’ve got to look to the future for additional ways to deal with (manure),” Hogan said to a group of onlookers as Hogan and employees of the Irish firm cut a ribbon to mark the facility’s official opening.
A $970,000 grant from the state department of agriculture’s Animal Waste Technology Fund helped support the $3 million facility at Double Trouble Farm owned by the Murphy family. The department also gave an additional $139,000 to monitor its operations for a year.
Mountaire, one of the region’s poultry producers, also supported the project.
“I am excited that a unique piece of technology designed in Ireland is going to transform U.S. poultry production and play a crucial role in reducing the environmental impact of the industry on the Chesapeake Bay,” Biomass Heating Solutions Chairman Denis Brosnan said. “I hope this pilot project is the start of a broader initiative to turn poultry manure from a potential pollutant into a variable source of energy.”
The poultry burning process, which can consume eight to 10 tons of manure daily, will heat two of the farm’s four poultry houses during the facility’s demonstration period.
Manure is dumped into a bed and scraped by a mechanical arm onto a conveyor belt that moves the manure inside the facility housing the machine.
It essentially extracts energy from the manure to heat water to 250 degrees, and the water is pumped to heat the chicken houses.
The ash byproduct is dumped beneath the two-story machine for future sale. Most of the machine’s emissions are water vapor, Biomass workers said.
The facility can create about 526 megawatts of electricity per year. It should create a drier, healthier atmosphere for birds and reduce ammonia, which will boost productivity. Jonathan Moyle with the University of Maryland Extension will monitor the facility’s results for the next year.
The Animal Waste Technology Fund is a grant program providing seed funding to companies that develop new technologies to better manage manure.
To date, the program has approved $3.7 million in grants to six projects.