MDA wooing litter solutions (Editorial)

(Sept. 20, 2016) Litter happens. It’s how the farmer gets rid of it that counts.
He used to simply spread on his cropland.
Not necessarily, and in some cases, not usually, does he do that anymore.
Increasing attention is being paid across the Chesapeake Bay watershed as to litter, rather than being spread, as fertilizer, can be transformed into something else equally useable, such as energy.
The Maryland Department of Agriculture has awarded more than $1.7 million in grants for two animal waste management technology projects — focusing on poultry litter and horse manure — in Somerset and Anne Arundel counties.
MDA said the grants are part of the state’s “ongoing commitment to manage animal manure, protect natural resources, and pursue renewable energy sources.”
A $1.4 million Animal Waste Technology grant has been awarded to Clean Bay Renewables of Maryland to construct and operate a manure-to-energy plant in Somerset County.
The plant, the company says, will generate electricity by processing 80 tons per day of poultry litter as a feedstock.
The system has the capacity to produce 2 megawatts of electricity per hour.
The plant will use “a thermophilic anaerobic digester to convert organic matter into biogas — a mix of methane and carbon dioxide — and simpler chemical compounds in an oxygen-free environment.”
Importantly, the system is designed to “capture and separates nitrogen and phosphorous contained in the byproduct, creating a marketable product that farmers can use to fertilize their crops, comply with Maryland’s Phosphorus Management Tool regulations, and protect local waterways and the Chesapeake Bay from excess nutrients.”
The poultry litter feedstock for the plant will be supplied by a Somerset County manure broker.
Clean Bay Renewables has received approval to build the manure-to-energy plant from PJM, the utility grid operator serving Maryland, Delaware, Washington, D.C., and 11 other states, and has the support of the Somerset County Economic Development Commission.
The state’s $1.4 million grant will supplement $15 million in investments already secured by Clean Bay Renewables.
Reportedly, three other similar plants are planned elsewhere on Delmarva.
Veteran Compost of Harford County and O2 Compost of Washington State were awarded a $350,300 grant from the Animal Waste Technology Fund to develop a compost demonstration project and public education/training facility for livestock farmers in Anne Arundel County.  
The project — which is aimed primarily at horse operations — will demonstrate aerated static pile composting technology systems for small, medium and large horse operations and will be solar-powered.
MDA had issued a request for proposals in December 2015 and received 13 bids which were reviewed by a five-member technical review subcommittee.
Projects like these and the on-going statewide PMT soil testing program demonstrate again that farmers, and indceed the entire agricultural industry, is doing its share, perhaps more than its share, in the Chesapeake Bay clean-up.
The environmental activist community needs to take notice.