Effluent may be powerhouse for farmers
Effluent - often a headache for Southland dairy farmers - could soon prove beneficial by offsetting electricity bills, recent research shows.
As part of the Southland Energy Strategy, Venture Southland has been working with farm consultants, Scandrett Rural, Niwa, and EECA trialling the capture of methane emissions from covered anaerobic effluent ponds on dairy farms.
The principle behind the project was to demonstrate that methane could be used as an energy source to reduce electricity use on farms and also reduce greenhouse emissions.
Methane produced from a covered effluent pond is collected and used to generate electricity.
Scandrett Rural agricultural engineering consultant Quinton Scandrett said data collected by Niwa had shown how viable the technology was.
The average power bill on a dairy farm could get up to $20,000 a year and the technology could hugely cut costs, he said.
"This will definitely take off in the future, all the signs are pointing towards it."
Venture Southland enterprise and strategic projects group manager Steve Canny said anaerobic bio gas pilots had produced high quality, dense combustive fuel.
The methane recovery system had been operating in Eastern Southland farms since 2011 and an additional Dacre- based methane production monitoring trail was installed last December.
A feasibility study of one further dairy farm, at Isla Bank, had been completed and demonstrated methane concentrations and volumes were sufficient to offset a significant amount of electricity used in a dairy shed, Mr Canny said.
The installation of a methane recovery on this farm was expected to start next month and be completed by the end of the year.
Venture Southland was working with the stakeholders to facilitate the work and support funding for the project.
There had been a lot of interest from dairy farmers in the region, he said.
"This is a high value fuel source that can potentially allow farmers to produce energy to offset the cost of electricity."
He believed it would be a viable technology used by farmers in the near future.
Cost would depend on the size of the farm but the payback would be less than three years, he said.
The perfect time and low cost option was to consider the technology when looking at consents to change the scale of an operation.
"By 2014 we will see a much more informed understanding of the technology and then we would like to see it used extensively in the region."
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