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Cargill Inc.’s ‘poop-to-power’ operations provide renewable resource

Bob Geiger
Dolan Media Newswires

Minneapolis — It’s official: Cargill’s new energy idea is a bunch of crap.

Minnetonka-based Cargill Inc. late last year fired up an $8.5 million anaerobic digester and generator facility that transforms turkey litter, cow dung and other animal waste into kilowatts for consumers — and helps utilities meet renewable energy standards.

The “poop-to-power” plant, which generates 2.13 megawatts, is in Hansen, Idaho, an area rich in dairy production. Cargill spokesman Bill Brady said the company is nearing completion of a second anaerobic digester in the area, and has plans to build a third.

Idaho’s 550,000-strong dairy herd supplies plenty of manure to fuel Cargill’s anaerobic digesters. Cargill is hoping the power will be purchased by Idaho Power, the state’s largest utility.

The company has already developed a marketing effort: Brochures for Cargill’s anaerobic digester development efforts picture a black-and-white cow under the trademarked slogan, “Got Watts?” burn less coal, which accounts for about half the energy generated each year. Power companies increasingly are turning to renewable energy sources as state mandates require them to

Cargill is exploring similar projects in Washington, Oregon, New Mexico, California, Texas, New York, Indiana and Minnesota, the nation’s No. 1 turkey producer.

Minnesota is already the scene of a “poop-to-power” facility; Fibrowatt LLC’s Fibrominn power plant in Benson generates 50 megawatts of electricity by burning 500,000 tons a year of turkey droppings and other biomass — enough to power 40,000 homes.

Fibrominn’s technology is a British import. Greg Langmo, a third-generation turkey farmer in Litchfield, was perplexed about what to do with an overabundance of turkey litter when he met with a United Kingdom-based poultry litter power developer.

In 2007, the same year the Minnesota Legislature passed a law requiring electric utilities to generate 25 percent of their electricity from renewable resources by 2025, Minneapolis-based Xcel Energy Inc. signed a 21-year power-purchase agreement to buy power generated at Fibrominn’s plant.

Tom Hoen, a spokesman for Xcel Energy Inc., said the power purchase agreement, or PPA, involves buying 50 megawatts of litter-generated energy 80 percent of the time.

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