June 20, 2014

A Dairy Good Clean Energy Source

More than 200 years ago, the Barstow family built a dairy farm on a plot of land in Hadley.

Earlier this month, the family celebrated another milestone on their sixth-generation farm - the start-up of their new anaerobic digester.

I was excited to travel to Hadley with MassCEC Program Director Amy Barard for the digester ribbon-cutting, which drew neighbors, friends, partners and several state officials, including Energy and Evnrionmental Affairs Secretary Maeve Vallely Bartlet, Agriculture Commissioner Greg Watson and Environmental Protection Commissioner David Cash.

So what is an anaerobic digester, and why is it such an exciting event when one goes online?

To start with, the anaerobic digester relies on a combination of cow manure, food waste, and naturally occurring microorganisms to produce biogas, which is then captured and used to fuel an engine that generates electricity and heat.

Food waste is one of the biggest contributors to landfills and by harnessing and using the energy found in food waste, anaerobic digesters can greatly decrease the amount of material that is ending up in landfills. In addition, an anaerobic digester enables a farm to become virtually independent of non-renewable fossil fuels for heat and electricity, with plenty of excess renewable electricity to sell to others. 

The Hadley digester, which received a construction grant from MassCEC, also produces valuable fertilizer that the farm uses to grow its crops. 

Overall, the event was a huge success and MassCEC is proud to have had a hand in the development of this groundbreaking project.