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Green Cow Power Wins Clean Air Award

by Jerry Goshert

Published: Friday, May 6, 2016

Green Cow Power of Foraker was honored last Tuesday for its innovative process of converting cow manure and organic waste into electricity for residents and businesses in Elkhart County.

The Partners for Clean Air Award was presented by the Michiana Area Council of Governments in recognition of Green Cow Power's efforts to reduce air pollution in the region.

Green Cow Power, located at the intersection of C.R.s 40 and 13 in Elkhart County, generates electrical power from methane, which is a byproduct of bacterial activity inside two digesters. The methane is harvested, used as fuel for the electrical generators, and the electrical power is transmitted to the NIPSCO substation in Wakarusa.

Andy Sloat, manager for Green Cow Power, said the power generation facility partners with Brent Martin's dairy farm for a steady supply of cow manure for the digesters. Additional manure is trucked in from nearby dairy farms, and the digesters also accept food waste and other organic material.

Between 60,000 and 80,000 gallons of manure are pumped underground daily from the dairy farm to the digesters, which can hold 4.8 million gallons. The manure is heated to stimulate the bacterial activity in an oxygen-free environment. Methane rises to the surface, where it is captured and used as fuel for the electrical generators in the power station. The electricity is then carried through power lines to Wakarusa.

Sloat says the manure stays in the digesters for 30 days. This allows the company to extract every ounce of energy before it is discarded. The leftover material is separated into liquids and solids. The nitrogen-rich liquid is applied on area crop fields as fertilizer, while the digested solids are used as bedding material for Martin's dairy cattle. Sloat says the heating process kills harmful bacteria in the solids. As a result, Martin's bedding costs have decreased and he has also seen a decrease in mastitis.

In the process of generating electricity, the digesters produce ample amounts of heated water (101 degrees F). This water is recirculated back to the dairy farm, where it heats the barn floors and keeps the cows warm in the winter.

Sloat says the digesters produce 3.4 million watts of electricity, enough to power 1,500 to 2,000 homes.

This award is not the first for Green Cow Power. Last year, the American Biogas Council selected the business as its "Agricultural Project of the Year."

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