Pa. group seeks farmers for anaerobic digestion projects

By Chris Hanson | August 19, 2013

The West Penn Power Sustainable Energy Fund is investing in a minimum of five dairy farms to generate electricity from anaerobic digestion (AD) technology in Pennsylvania’s Cumberland County and Franklin County.

Coordinated by Farm Pilot Project Coordination, the project will evaluate multiple farm sites to ascertain if anaerobic technology can be deployed to divert waste runoff into the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The evaluation team consists of members from FPPC, Tetra Tech and Red Barn Consulting.

Bob Monley, consultant and retired general manager for FPPC, explained how each company brings its expertise to the project.  He said WPPSEF has power industry insight, FPPC has expertise in technology to manage nutrients, Tetra Tech has AD technology and Red Barn focuses on farm sites with excess nutrients, or manure.  

Monley said Cumberland County and Franklin County were selected was because the territory overlaps West Penn Energy’s service area and the Chesapeake Bay watershed. He said the watershed, which encompasses six surrounding states, is currently overloaded with nutrient runoff, and half of those nutrients originate from surrounding farms in those states. “We, at Farm Pilot, are interested in managing that waste stream differently so that less of the nutrients end up in the watershed where it doesn’t belong,” Monley said.

In addition to studying energy feasibility and lowering nutrient levels in the watershed, Monley added the project has the potential to generate another revenue stream for farmers. “Farmers are always interested in extra income,” he said. “If we can end up contributing to a farm that has a stronger business so that his farm is more sustainable then we’ll be doing a good thing for the U.S. and community.”

The application deadline for the project is Aug. 26.