Sunday, December 12, 2010

Local power

One of the many steps that will have to be taken to wean civilization off of fossil fuels is to generate power at the local level.

Over a decade ago, in my column in the Hampshire Review, I suggested that Hampshire County start generating its own power by using cattle and other waste in a biogas digester, an antique technology that can greatly benefit us today--by using waste that is otherwise polluting our watershed, and thereby taking methane that would dissipate into the atmosphere and aggravate global climate change, and instead use it for local power generation.

So you can imagine my satisfaction to see the New York Times article, "Using Waste, Swedish City Cuts Its Fossil Fuel Use." It's about the city of Kristanstad, which has, in just a decade, cut its fossil fuel use in half and reduced its carbon dioxide emissions by a quarter, by using a biogas digester. The manager of the project extols the local supply of biomass as "much more secure than Middle East oil," and noted that "it has created jobs in the energy sector."

What the article has to say about the use of this technology in the US shows that, given its societal benefits, it has tremendous capacity for growth here.

"In the United States, biogas systems are rare. There are now 151 biomass digesters in the country, most of them small and using only manure, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The E.P.A. estimated that installing such plants would be feasible at about 8,000 farms.

So far in the United States, such projects have been limited by high initial costs, scant government financing and the lack of a business model. There is no supply network for moving manure to a centralized plant and no outlet to sell the biogas generated.

Still, a number of states and companies are considering new investment. "

Given the amount of biofuel our agriculture industry generates in Hampshire County, and the uncertainty in global energy markets, it seems both wasteful and foolish not to consider this technology in our local energy future.

--Michael Hasty

1 comment:

Donnyl said...

How can we as a community implement this great idea of a biogas digester?

What steps can we make? As you can see I am very excited about this.This would solve so many problems.