By Leslie Ballentine, Farming and food commentator
Alternative energy is becoming increasingly important in our oil-limited world. Record high gas prices at the pump and creeping hydro bills are just signs of things to come. Farm equipment manufacturers are saying that farmers need more incentives to generate alternative energy from sources such as livestock manure.
Although the technology to turn poop (and other food and farm wastes) into clean energy has been commercially available in Canada for more than a decade, it hasn’t taken off the way I think it should. I got involved in the development of bio-diesel about ten years ago. The livestock and poultry farmers I worked for at the time saw the technology as a way to deal with shrinking markets and opportunities to recycle animal by-products. The technology has improved since then but the costs have not.
For example, one company, Bio-Terre Systems, has developed a low temperature anaerobic digestion system for processing farm manure and other organic wastes. The new system operates at lower temperatures than conventional systems cutting operating costs. Other companies have come-up with a new generation of extractors to improve the quality of bio-fuels that can be used in our vehicles. Farmers can use the energy to power their farms or sell it back to the electricity grid.
So what is holding it back? Right now although the technology is available the business incentives are not. Farm engineer Dennis Hodgkinson says environmental regulators in Canada have been slow to embrace anaerobic digestion and he believes that is slowing the advancement of the technology.
Mr Hodgkinson says the Europeans have built hundreds of conventional anaerobic digesters on farms but that development has been supported by preferential treatment. In Canada these business incentives, tax incentives and preferential green energy rates, don’t exist in our every day business, he says.
Right now, he explains, it is individual farmers that are choosing to make personal investments to adopt the technology because they believe in its potential. Eventually he predicts the economic circumstances will develop to make it attractive to both farmers and energy buyers.
This is a good technology, it can make real environmental improvements and it already has in a limited way. Now it is a matter of waiting for the economic circumstances to be right. That means waiting for even higher prices at the pump.
Until the next BLOG.
Posted by FFC on April 9th, 2012 :: Filed under animal by-products
,Innovation and technology
Tags :: environment