Farm readies biogas plant - But getting the kilowatts onto the Ontario electricity grid will be a challenge.
The London Free Press: By HANK DANISZEWSKI, SUN MEDIA - November 29, 2007
ILDERTON -- A green revolution in agriculture and power production is taking shape at the Stanton Bros. dairy farm.
It's called biogas, a technology that transforms livestock manure and food waste into clean, renewable energy.
The Stanton Bros. biogas plant is only the third in Ontario and by far the largest. The farm has the capacity to handle 2,000 head of dairy cattle
producing enough manure to generate 300 kilowatts of power.
That output could supply more than 1,000 homes and can be scaled up by bringing in manure from other farms or food processing plants.
In Germany, biogas has become a billion-dollar industry with thousands of plants turning out at total of 640 megawatts of power, more than an average nuclear
reactor. By 2020 biogas is expected to provide, 17 per cent of Germany's electricity production.
The Stanton Bros. $4.5- million project is nearing completion but will have to overcome some bureaucratic hurdles before it can go into full production.
The ministries of energy and agriculture seem to be enthusiastic supporters said Garry Fortune, a consultant who is working with Stanton Bros.
The Stanton farm has been toured by former Ontario energy minister Dwight Duncan, former federal agriculture minister Chuck Strahl and Hydro One
chairperson Rita Burak.
"We are just scratching the surface of biogas plants, which take just six months to build. Imagine the potential in the 20 years it would take to build a nuclear
power plant," said Fortune.
But he said the Ontario Power Authority and the Ontario Energy Board have rules that make it difficult and unprofitable to pump power into the provincial grid.
"There seems to be a disconnect between the government regulation and the government agenda," he said.
Fortune said the Ontario government's alternative energy program gives biogas producers only 11 cents per kilowatt for power pumped into the grid, while solar
projects get 42 cents a kilowatt.
He said alternative energy producers also must pay the full cost of connecting to the grid and do not receive lucrative carbon credits for reducing greenhouse
Fortune said biogas plants could be popping up all over rural Ontario if the government offered a better deal.
OPA spokesperson Kevin Devitt said the agency has a mandate to get an efficient deal for ratepayers and alternative energy producers have to find a way to work
within the 11 cents per kW/h offer.
"The truth is that some projects will not proceed at that price, but it's not our mandate to make every project work. If we made every project work we would
be overpaying," he said.
Devitt said the OPA was directed by the provincial government to pay the premium rate of 42 cents per hour for solar power.
Laurie Stanton said biogas could be a new source of revenue for farmers and a reliable energy alternative energy source for Ontario.
"It's truly distributed reliable power. It not like wind power that gives you a shot of power unpredictably," said Stanton.
He said the digesters would also curb the practice of applying manure to farmer fields, raising complaints about odours and runoff into streams.
The digester process eliminates odours and disease-causing bacteria, but still produces useful solid fibres and organic liquid fertilizer as byproducts.
- Organic material such as manure, corn silage or food processing waste is mixed in sealed, heated tanks known an anaerobic digesters.
- The mixture is digested by bacteria producing biogas, which is 60 per cent methane.
- The methane can be burned to produce heat and generate electricity that can be used in the provincial grid. The methane can also be fed into a natural gas
- The process eliminates most odour and toxicity in the organic matter. Leftover solids can be used as animal bedding or a peat moss substitute and the liquid
can be used as fertilizer.
- A distributed source of green alternative energy available 24/7, unlike wind farms and solar power
- Eliminates odour and runoff problems caused by spreading large volumes of livestock manure on farm fields
- Reduces the release of methane, a greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere
- Diverts commercial food waste from food processor and retailers going to