Pig Power: From Waste to Fuel

By now the science is clear. Climate change is happening and greenhouse gas emissions play a starring role. Nearly one-third of our total emissions in the US comes from electricity production. An additional ten percent come from Agriculture. That’s why many states are adopting renewable energy standards or emissions goals that cut across both sectors. North Carolina’s state mandate requires a percentage of its electricity generation come from the Agriculture sector, specifically from swine waste.

There are a number of projects in the state aimed at changing methane-rich pig poop from pollutant to power producer through anaerobic digestion. Most focus on cleaning up the waste stream on one farm, using the system to offset power used onsite. One project in particular aims to shed light on expanding the greenhouse gas-cutting process beyond the farm, with a networked approach to pool the methane supply from multiple farms. While not a completely closed-loop system, it works similarly to distributed solar projects, sometimes pulling energy off the grid to power parts of the system, sometimes sending surplus back to the grid. Big-name companies Duke Energy and Google were drawn to the Loyd Ray farms pilot project by carbon offset credits. They partnered with Duke University to find the most efficient way to clean up water used in pig farming while generating usable methane gas. With enough data collected to prove their concept, they’re now looking to scale up and spread their method to more farm-dense areas where this kind of pipeline could be productive.

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