Monday, April 03, 2006

Chicken Poop to Power

From Renewable Energy Access, news of plans in Georgia to build the state's first poultry litter-to-energy operation (I'm guessing they were too polite to say "poop" in their press release):
Green Power EMC, a partnership of 28 electric membership corporations (EMCs) in Georgia, will purchase 20 megawatts (MW) of electricity from what may well be the first poultry litter-to-energy operation in Georgia. The electricity will be provided by Earth Resources Inc., which will construct a chicken litter-to-electricity plant about 70 miles northeast of Atlanta.

When complete, the $20 million Franklin County plant will generate enough energy annually to meet the needs of more than 15,000 homes. Construction is scheduled to begin in May and expected to be operational by summer 2007.

The 15-year power purchase agreement (PPA) is part of Green Power EMC's mission to research and develop renewable energy options such as biomass, solar, wind and low-impact hydro. "Green Power EMC continues to assist its members in diversifying their energy resources and their renewable energy portfolio," said Michael Whiteside, president and CEO of Green Power EMC. "This technology will benefit businesses, farmers, EMC customers, residents of Georgia and the environment."
While regular readers know I'm huge fan of the concept of turning wastes into energy, I do have a question on this one (and, now that I think about it, on other such operations): isn't factory-style farming necessary to outfit such a power plant? Seems to me that free-range birds means free-range poop, which is hardly conducive to gathering in large amounts. If I'm correct, we're presented with yet another head-scratcher: is it more sustainable to raise animals in a more humane manner, or to use the wastes of factory-style operations to produce cleaner energy? Would a free-range operation ultimately require less energy, making such power plants less necessary? I haven't even touched on the quality of the food, which is certainly another connected issue. Perhaps I'm late to the game here... educate me...

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