Middlebury looks to turn manure, food waste into energy

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Middlebury looks to turn manure, food waste into energy

Thu, 11/23/2017 - 4:21am -- tim

The Goodrich Family Farm in Salisbury will be the site of a new anaerobic digester that will produce renewable natural gas for the College.

Vermont Business Magazine Middlebury College will significantly reduce its carbon footprint thanks to an innovative partnership with Goodrich Family Farm in Salisbury, Vt., Vanguard Renewables of Wellesley, Mass., and Vermont Gas. Representatives from the four organizations involved discussed the partnership at a press briefing on November 16 at the College’s Kirk Center. 

Under the terms of a recently signed agreement, Vanguard Renewables will construct, own, and operate a facility at Goodrich Family Farm that will combine cow manure and food waste to produce Renewable Natural Gas (RNG). Gas produced by the Farm Powered* anaerobic digester will travel by pipeline to Middlebury College’s main power plant. Middlebury has agreed to purchase the bulk of the facility’s output. 

“We are constantly looking at new ways to make our energy sources more sustainable and diverse, and the digester project is a great opportunity to do that,” said David Provost, executive vice president for finance and administration at Middlebury College. “In 2016, the College reached its goal of carbon neutrality. We want to maintain that goal and keep improving on it. The digester will enable us to further decrease our use of carbon-based fuels.

“The College is excited to partner with the Goodrich Family Farm, Vermont Gas, and Vanguard Renewables, a national leader in its field,” added Provost. Vanguard currently owns and operates three anaerobic digesters located in Massachusetts.

Beyond the renewable energy produced by the digester, the facility will create high-quality, liquid fertilizer that will reduce the farm’s reliance on chemical fertilizers. The farm will also benefit from lower energy costs, free heat for farm use, fewer greenhouse gas emissions, and an annual lease payment for hosting the anaerobic digester facility. Located on more than 2,200 acres, the Goodrich Family Farm is a generational dairy farm with 900 milking cows. The farm is a member of the Agri-Mark Cabot Creamery Cooperative.

Once it is built, the digester at the Goodrich Family Dairy Farm (pictured above) will produce the largest amount of RNG of any digester in Vermont. Photos by Todd Balfour.

“The digester offers help with many of the challenges we face as farmers,” said Chase Goodrich, who is among the fourth generation of his family to operate the farm. “We want to diversify our income sources and find new ways to be environmentally friendly. Here in the Champlain Valley, we’re particularly aware of efforts to reduce phosphorus runoff into Lake Champlain.” 

The digester project is currently in the permitting phase. Once permits are in place, Vanguard will begin construction on the digester and Vermont Gas will start work on a 5-mile pipeline along Shard Villa Road that connects the farm with the company’s pipeline network in Addison County.

The Goodrich Family Farm anaerobic digester will produce the largest amount of energy or RNG of any digester in Vermont. It will process 100 tons of manure from the farm and 165 tons of organic food waste per day. Vanguard plans to source the organic food waste from local and Vermont-based food manufacturers including Cabot Creamery. 

Vanguard Renewables and Agri-Mark Cabot Creamery Cooperative won the 2016 American Biogas Council Agricultural Project of the Year for the Farm Powered* anaerobic digester project at Barstow’s Longview Farm in Hadley, Mass.

The Goodrich Farm digester will produce 140,000 Mcf per year. (A Mcf is 1,000 cubic feet of Renewable Natural Gas.) The College will buy 100,000 Mcf of the gas from Vanguard and Vermont Gas will purchase the remainder.

Once the digester is operating, the College will use oil at its heating plant only as a back-up energy source during extreme cold weather or other emergency situations. 

“We’re especially excited about this project because it’s our first partnership with a college and our first digester in Vermont,” said John Hanselman, executive chairman of Vanguard. “Middlebury College, Goodrich Farm, and Vermont Gas are setting a new example that can be replicated across the country.”

“We are thrilled to be a part of this unique and innovative project that will deliver a new, local source of renewable energy to Middlebury College and others,” said Don Rendall, president and CEO of Vermont Gas. “Vermont Gas is proud to be the first local distribution company in the country to offer the choice of renewable natural gas service to our customers. A local source, hosted by a Vermont family farm, serving a world-renowned Vermont college, is a big step forward in advancing Vermont’s clean energy future.”

Jack Byrne, director of sustainability integration at the College, noted that the project would also offer valuable academic benefits for Middlebury students and faculty. “This is an important step for Middlebury College from an operational standpoint but it will also offer multiple educational and research opportunities for our students just as our biomass plant has,” said Byrne.

*Farm Powered is a trademark of Vanguard Renewables. 

About Middlebury College
Founded in 1800, Middlebury is unique in being a classic liberal arts college that also offers graduate and specialized programs operating around the world. Although its international focus is strong, Middlebury is rooted in Vermont, where its history is entwined with the state, Addison County, and the town of Middlebury where it is located. Middlebury has established itself as a leader in campus environmental initiatives, with an accompanying educational focus on environmental issues in Vermont and around the globe. 

About Vanguard Renewables
The Vanguard Renewables Farm Powered Organics to Energy Lifecycle solves organic waste disposal challenges and supports the American farmer. Our scalable, closed-loop Farm Powered anaerobic digestion process converts farm and food waste into energy. 

About Vermont Gas
Vermont Gas Systems is a leader in energy efficiency and innovation, offering a clean, safe, affordable choice for over 50,000 homes, businesses, and institutions in Franklin, Chittenden and Addison counties. The company plays an important role in Vermont’s clean energy future by displacing higher-emitting fuels and with its award-winning energy efficiency programs.

Digester Project Fact Sheet

Who is Vanguard Renewables?

Vanguard Renewables develops, constructs, owns, and operates Farm Powered Anaerobic Digestion (AD) facilities that provide a closed loop organics (food and agricultural waste) to energy lifecycle solution. Our digesters sustain American farms, enable organic waste ban compliance, reduce Green House Gas and phosphorus, and produce renewable clean energy.

Farm Powered Anaerobic Digester Project at Goodrich Family Dairy Farm

Location & Construction

  • Located in Salisbury, Vt., Addison County. 5.6 miles from Middlebury College and Cabot’s largest cheese factory
  • Plan to construct a 140,000 Mcf/y facility at Goodrich Family Farm

Farm Facts: Goodrich Family Farm, Salisbury, Vermont

  • Generational Vermont dairy farm owned and operated by the Goodrich family
  • 900 milking cows on site
  • 1750 acres of hay and 650 acres of corn

Utility: Vermont Gas

  • Vermont Gas Service to extend existing gas line 5.0 miles to the farm

Project Inputs: Feedstock

  • Manure ~ 100 tons per day
  • Organics ~ 165 tons per day

Project Outputs: RNG (Renewable Natural Gas) and Electricity

  • 140,000 Mcf/y of baseload Renewable Natural Gas for pipeline injection
  • 500kW of Renewable Electricity

Farm Benefits

  • Annual lease payment for land use
  • Reduced energy costs
  • Free heat for farm use
  • Liquid fertilizer to increase crop yields and reduce chemical fertilizer use
  • Separated solids for animal bedding
  • Phosphorus reduction
  • Reduced GHG emissions

Source: Middlebury College 11.16.2017