By Jessie Flo McDonald, EFA Special Events Coordinator
Jessie Flo here again. Straus Family Creamery powers their whole dairy operation on poop, can you believe it? It’s true! A few weeks ago we had the opportunity to visit the dairy and hear all about their energy efficient systems, including a methane digester, from the man himself, Albert Straus.
The methane digester is a large pond covered by a thick tarp that creates a whole lot of energy. Here’s how it works: The feces from the cows on the farm are flushed through the barn using recycled water from the creamery, and then scraped by tractor into a holding pond. From the holding pond the manure goes to a separator, which sends the solid waste to be composted, and the liquid waste to the methane digester pond. Once in the pond, the liquid manure is broken down by bacteria so it releases methane gas, carbon dioxide and a bit of hydrogen sulfite. The gases are captured by the enormous tarp and then piped into a combustion engine to create energy! The heat produced from the engine is then used to heat the water to clean equipment.
The methane digester system produces about 28,800 kilowatt-hours per month of energy—enough to power the dairy, the creamery, Albert’s electric car and to put electricity back into the grid! Perhaps the most important benefit though, is the elimination of the release of methane, a greenhouse gas 23 times more detrimental to the environment than carbon dioxide, from entering the atmosphere.
The initial implementation cost of the methane digester at Straus’ Farm was pretty steep, about $334, 600, but it was well worth it environmentally. By utilizing the digester, recycling water and constantly working on new ways to improve their efficiency, the Straus Family is doing their part to not only produce conscious food products but also to leave the environment better off than when they started.
For a wealth of information on all of Straus’ environmental and sustainable efforts, please visit www.strausfamilycreamery.com!