Hog farms as an energy source?

The StarNewsOnline.com (Wilmington, NC) reports that there may be some value to the hog farm waste that can cause significant environmental damage, as I described in a previous post (Why We Should Eat Less Pork). Bottom line: Hog manure can be used to produce methane, but the waste products don’t go away.

Link: Hog farms seen as energy source | StarNewsOnline.com | Star-News | Wilmington, NC

Using available technology, North Carolina’s hog farms could produce enough electricity to serve more than 90,000 homes, according to a new study commissioned by the N.C. Utilities Commission.

Extrapolating from data about the state’s hog industry – the second largest in the nation, after Iowa – and from experience with waste-to-energy experiments, engineers at LaCapra Associates estimated that 93 megawatts of power could reasonably be generated on the state’s swine farms.

The issue is important to eastern North Carolina, which is home to more than 6 million hogs and the vast majority of the state’s large hog farms. Because of concerns over the effect of hog waste on the region’s water resources, lawmakers halted the opening of new hog farms. Under a legal agreement, the state government and the state’s largest pork producers have spent millions seeking a cost-effective solution for hog waste to replace the open-air lagoon systems now in use.

That legal agreement, and the new attention of the utilities commission and the state legislature, might provide the impetus to bring the study’s estimates closer to reality, said Molly Diggins, director of the state branch of the Sierra Club.

Serious engineering and policy challenges remain, said Leonard Bull, an N.C. State University scientist and deputy director of State’s animal waste research center.

"There are two or three technologies which show promise," Bull said. "But the issues about connecting to the electrical grid are difficult. Becoming a power producer is a slow and laborious process."