Poultry-litter-to-energy partners propose 10 MW facility for Md.

By Luke Geiver | December 30, 2011

A recently formed partnership between agriculture giant Perdue AgriBusiness and animal waste utility developer Fibrowatt LLC could lead to a 10 MW biomass power facility in Salisbury, Md.

The two companies have submitted a proposal in response to the Maryland Clean Bay Power Request for Proposals, released by Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley in October. The program seeks projects that could promote renewable energy in the state while reducing agricultural runoff into the Chesapeake Bay. Those projects must also utilize animal waste to produce a minimum of 10 MW of electricity by 2015.

The proposed combined-heat-and-power (CHP) biomass boiler operation in Salisbury will create 70,000 pounds per hour of steam for an adjacent Perdue Agribusiness complex using a combination of poultry litter, layer hen manure, wood chips and other locally sourced biomass, according to Perdue AgriBusiness. Firbrowatt will bring its 20 years of experience in running and operating animal waste to energy plants, including the nation’s first poultry litter facility in Benson, Minn. The Fibrominn Biomass Power Plant came online in 2007 and produces 55 MW from roughly 700,000 tons of liter and biomass per year.

The partnership between the two companies was the result of a long search by Perdue Agribusiness, according to Dick Willey, president of the company. Over the course of two years, Perdue conducted a number of technology reviews related to poultry-to-energy applications, meeting with more than 45 companies. “Our conclusion at this point is that the only commercially viable technology is combustion,” Willey said of the reviews.

Perdue will work with Fibrowatt to mimic the success of the Benson, Minn. Facility. Jim Potter, president and chief operating officer of Homeland Renewable Energy Inc., the parent company of Firbrowatt, said the facility in Minnesota, located less than one-half mile from Benson, has never received a single complaint from the local Citizens Advisory Panel. Benson Mayor Paul Kittleson also believes in the Fibrominn facility, inviting local citizens in Maryland to tour it.

“We are excited about this project because it supports agriculture and the environment,” Willey said. “It supports both animal agriculture and crop production in Maryland by providing poultry growers an additional management alternative for their poultry litter, yet keeping litter, a great fertilizer and soil amendment, available to crop producers for appropriate application.”

In 2001, Perdue formed Perdue AgriRecycle and has since shipped 12 million pounds of nitrogen and 7.5 million pounds of phosphorous out of the area. Perdue AgriRecycle is now the largest buyer of poultry litter in Maryland. Not only does the poultry-to-energy facility make sense for Perdue and Fibrowatt, but early estimates provided by the partnership shows the Maryland economy will also benefit.

The estimated contributions from the project show that 180 jobs will be created during construction, $1.2 million will be injected into state sales and use tax during that time, and average annual property tax payments will total $300,000. Each year, the biomass facility will spend $4 million on biomass payments and another $2 million will go toward expenditures like maintenance, materials, parts or supplies. For the 25 employees expected at the future facility, the annual payroll will total $1.6 million.