Our Town Amana: Poo Power

By Travis Bockenstedt, Our Town Producer

AMANA - Believe it or not, cattle will soon be helping to power Our Town Amana. Here in Amana Farms they are using the waste from some four-thousand cattle to produce electricity.

The work isn't pleasant and neither is the smell. But this farm has been around since 1850, and it's moving forward with new ideas.

"We're gonna be generating ten to fifteen-percent of the total electrical needs of the Amana colonies out of waste products," said John McGrath of Amana Farms.

Turning cattle waste into electricity is the new agenda for Amana. It's called the "Farms to Fuel Project."

"I read about a lot of it in ag trade journals and they've done more of this in Europe so that Europeans are probably ten to twenty years ahead of us as far as farm adoption of methane digesters," said McGrath. "This is the digester itself. It's seventeen feet deep. Concrete vessel in the shape of a U. The manure is poured in one side and travels around for a period of 21 days."

It's all part of a five-million dollar project. Anaerobic bacteria attacks the manure, breaking it down to produce methane gas. The digester is expected to use 10-thousand cubic feet of waste per day.

"You do have to be in the right situation to do it. Size and scale helps. It's not necessarily a viable project for extremely small producers. I would say they are going to be adopted by large to medium sized producers first," said McGrath.

Amana Farms plans to have the project completed this month. Organizers say the "Farms to Fuel Project" will benefit the local environment and improve air-quality. The power plant is expected to generate 2.6-megawatts of power.
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