The state has given a $475,274 grant to Somerset County’s Pennwood Farms Dairy to build an anaerobic digester, a device that converts cow manure to methane and subsequently electric energy. The grant is part of a state effort to support clean energy projects.
The machine contains bacteria that feed on excrement put into a large tank. The bacteria break down the manure to make methane gas, which fuels an electric generator. Meanwhile, the manure is decontaminated and separated into solid and liquid parts; the liquid waste is used as fertilizer while the solids are used as bedding for the cows.
Pennwood Farms partner Dwayne Stolpuzfus says though it’s an environmentally friendly machine, the digester probably won’t bring any new jobs – just more duties for current workers. He says the device is not cost-effective to build without the help of grants; it’s cheaper to buy electricity on the grid than to install and run one of these machines.