Duke University and Duke Energy teamed up to create and construct a pilot waste-to-energy system on a hog finishing facility 25 miles west of Winston-Salem, N.C. The system converts hog waste from the facility to electricity and creates carbon offset credits. Google Inc. has endorsed the system by investing in the carbon offsets.
The systems captures greenhouse gases created from hog waste at the facility and burns them in a turbine. This operation creates enough electricity to power 35 homes for a year. Doing so prevents the equivalent of almost 5,000 metric tons of CO2 per year. The prototype system was built with mostly off-the-shelf technology and includes a lined and covered anaerobic digester and a lined aeration basin. A thick plastic dome collects methane gas over the digester. Most hog finishing farms use open waste lagoons, huge producers of methane gas which is 21 times more potent that carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas.
The $1.2 million system was built on Loyd Ray Farms in Yadkinville, N.C and is intended as model for other hog farms. The system was built to meet all the environmental standards for N.C. Carbon offset credits are created by the methane capture and used by Duke University and Google. Google has agreed to pay a share of the university’s portion of the costs in return for a portion of the offsets. Loyd Ray Farms will use the surplus electricity on-site.
The project has been in the works for three years and has received grant funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources Lagoon Conversion Program.
“It is rewarding to see three years of hard work come into operation and exciting to have Google as a new partner in this project,” said Owen Smith, managing director of Duke Energy’s regulated renewables business. “As North Carolina continues to explore new ways to generate renewable energy from hog waste, this site serves as a showcase for what others can do to capture the energy from hog waste and turn it into usable electricity for customers.”
In addition to renewable energy production and greenhouse gas reduction, the project is expected to improve water and air quality, reduce odors, reduce pathogens, reduce nutrients, and increase farm productivity.
To learn more about the system and Google’s involvement, click here.