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Cargill dairy farm digester makes electricity

An Idaho dairy farm is illustrating how environmental innovation can simultaneously help solve problems as global as climate change—and as local as livestock manure.

A Cargill-built-and-operated anaerobic digester on the Bettencourt Dairy B6 Farm is now converting manure from the farm’s 6,000 cows into 1 million kilowatt-hours of electricity per month. The electricity is sold to the local power grid.

“We’re proud to be creating a renewable source of electricity,” said Bettencourt Chief Financial Officer Rick Onaindia. “Our digesters are also helping us reduce overall operating costs.”

The anaerobic digester from Cargill’s Environmental Finance group operates by feeding manure into a large, sealed, in-ground, oxygen-free vessel. Bacteria break down the waste, creating methane biogas. The gas is then captured and burned in a series of generators that produce electricity that is sent to the grid.

This project builds on the success of a Cargill anaerobic digester operating since 2008 on another 10,000-cow Bettencourt Dairy farm nearby.

Along with generating enough renewable electricity to power approximately 1,100 US homes per month, the project will also generate carbon credits from reduced methane emissions in the atmosphere. Cargill is in the process of selling the first 28,000 tons of emission offsets generated by the initial Bettencourt Dairy digester. At peak capacity, that digester is expected to produce 1.3 million kilowatt-hours of electricity a month, enough to power approximately 1,400 US homes.

The two Bettencourt Dairy digester projects and a third digester project on a 5,500-cow dairy near Idaho Falls are a part of a broader initiative by Cargill Global Emissions that seeks to enhance direct participation in renewable energy projects to establish and grow its renewable energy-based trading business.

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