Daily Hampshire Gazette
By LUIS FIELDMAN Staff Writer
Methane, a greenhouse gas, gets turned into electricity at Barstow’s Longview Farm in Hadley. Enough electricity is generated from cow manure and food waste to power over 1,000 homes.
The gas traps heat in the atmosphere and cows produce methane through belches, farts and their manure – enough to account for nine percent of all methane emissions in the United States, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
In 2013, Barstow’s began using an anaerobic digester, which processes manure and food waste into electricity and creates a nutrient-rich fertilizer for the farm.
The digester generates 800 kilowatts per hour by processing all of the farm’s nearly 6,000 gallons of manure, plus 7,000 gallons of food waste from nearby businesses.
“We are taking the energy potential out of cow manure and food waste and turning it into enough electricity to power 1,600 homes,” Denise Barstow said.
Two engines are running continuously to generate electricity that goes into the power grid. Both engines have heat recovery units hooked up which goes back to heating the digester itself, for hot water used to clean barns, and to heat eight homes on the farm’s property.
Food waste from local companies such as Coca Cola and Whole Foods and manure from the farm’s 550 cows go into the digester’s tanks, one of which is 17 feet underground and insulated by the ground.“It’s a lot like a stomach,” Barstow said. “It’s really hot in there. Everything is moving around, there are little microbes in there and all the gas is rising to the top — methane, carbon and sulfur.”
Barstow said that the farm captures 80 percent of the methane produced by cows, and converts it into carbon — a less harmful pollutant — along with generating electricity, making natural fertilizer, and heating. According to the Environmental Defense Fund, methane is 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide in its ability to absorb and trap heat in the atmosphere.
“We wanted to do something that the community would really buy into and support and something that reflected our beliefs as farmers,” Barstow said. “That we need to do our best to minimize our waste and reuse all that we can and do the best possible thing for the land and world.”
Barstow’s Farm partnered with five other dairy farms in the state to attract investors for the digester. Through a combination of grants and loans from the state helped support the $6.3 million project. Vanguard Renewables, a Wellesley-based company, operates the digester.