Chicken Poop to Power, Northeast Edition

Back in April, I took note of a plan in Georgia to build a power plant that used poultry poop as its feedstock. According to the Hartford Courant (via Alotta Errata), Connecticut’s Kofkoff Egg Farm has plans for a similar power plant. While developing a large-scale source of renewable energy for the state certainly plays into the farm’s motivation, the main driver behind this plan is a whole lot of chicken poop that the farm can no longer provide to other farmers who want to use it for fertilizer:

The problem for Kofkoff starts with the state’s continuing shift away from agriculture.

The closure of farms – and their replacement with housing subdivisions – reduces the number of fields where Kofkoff can spread its manure. Dairy farms traditionally take chicken manure to fertilize fields for hay and corn.

At the same time, new federal regulations are placing limits on the amount of manure a farm can spread. The rules are meant to keep excess nutrients from ending up in lakes, rivers and bays. There, they can cause high amounts of algae growth, choking water habitats.

To comply with these regulations, dairy farms have to cut back on the amount of chicken waste they use, said Joseph Wettemann, a senior sanitary engineer for the state Department of Environmental Protection.

So with fewer places to put chicken manure, Kofkoff has to find new ways to dispose of its constant stream of waste.

“This manure-to-energy plant is our best shot right now,” Wettemann said.

While the idealist in me still wants to point out the connection of this form of energy generation with factory farming (and, clearly, that’s what Kofkoff does), it’s hard not to see this as a win-win for the region’s economic health and energy needs. The new plant will power up to 29,000 homes, and an important employer will stay afloat. And I definitely like the fact that Kofkoff, and other agribusinesses, are recognizing the potential of biomass energy production as a way of dealing with their waste stream — it even creates another product, as the ash from the burning of the chicken poop and other biomass (mainly waste wood) can be used as an organic soil additive. I’d love to see a more sustainable approach to farming come out of this, too, but this is definitely a step in other right directions.

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