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Pig Poop for Power Generation? It is, indeed, possible!

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What worth Pig poop? If you have started frowning at the query, think again. Or just read on.  The Duke University and Duke Power are partnering to make energy from hog waste. The move is part of the University’s efforts to go carbon neutral by 2024. The university and the power company broke ground this week on a prototype methane-capture system at a 9000-head hog farm in North Carolina that will convert waste gas from hog manure into energy through a process of anaerobic digestion.

Wastewater from barns will be treated in a device called a digester, which breaks down wastes in an airless environment. Captured methane gas will fuel a small turbine to generate 512 to 639 megawatt-hours of electricity a year. That’s enough to supply about 50 typical houses.

The prototype system is being built at Loyd Ray Farms in North Carolina. It is intended to serve as a model for other hog farms seeking to manage waste and develop on-farm renewable power.

Going by what Treehugger says, the university isn’t just looking at buying any-old carbon offsets, but rather to develop specific programs that deliver benefits in the surrounding communities of North Carolina.

This is not the first technology that makes power from hog wastes. But it’s the first that will produce enough electricity to power itself and have more left over to help run Loyd Ray Farms.

The federal Natural Resources Conservation Service and a state program on hog waste lagoons put up $500,000 for the project. Duke Energy invested $120,000, and Duke University also contributed. The project is expected to be fully operational by mid-February 2011.

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