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Turning turkey poop into power

With around 49 million turkeys raised each year, Minnesota is No. 1 in the country for turkey production. And with that many gobblers comes a lot of you know what. One company has figured out how to turn all that poop into clean, profitable power.

Fibrowatt operates a plant in Benson, Minn., that burns all that turkey poo to make electricity. Plant Manager Greg Langmo explains how 100 daily truckloads of this turkey litter are producing enough energy to power 44,000 homes, as well as the plant itself.

The Minnesota Department of Energy “Fields of Energy” series explores how agricultural advances can lead to renewable energy.

Comments (3)

  1. Submitted by John Farrell on 08/12/2009 - 03:10 pm.

    The only way Fibrowatt figured out how to make money from burning turkey poo was by getting a special subsidy at the legislature for their particular plant. (MN session laws 2000, Ch. 488).

    You can read more about how 1) Minnesotans effectively pay twice as much to burn turkey litter as we do to use it for fertilizer, 2) we could have gotten far more renewable energy if we’d spent the same $/kilo-watt hour on wind turbines from this testimony on the 2000 bill:

  2. Submitted by Gary Lee on 08/13/2009 - 10:27 am.

    Forty years ago an engineer in South Africa was using turkey, pig, cow and other manure to generate power (chicken poop being too acidic, but he was working on it). Trucking all of this to a central site, drying it, and then producing polutants by burning seems like a dumb approach. The South African approach was to build a holding tank, produce methane, and run that into a modified diesel engine pushing a generator. Some pollutants still produced, yes, but the approach is proven and works. We have an example here in Minnesota in the methane reclamation projects being run at landfills, basically the same idea and technology. An investment credit for farmers to purchase the necessary equipment, which could be run right next to solar, wind and the like, would stimulate a few jobs, reduce the problem of disposing of waste “turkey poop”, and make each farmer a bit closer to off the grid self sufficiency. Oh, and did I mention that the sludge left at the end is more suitable for fertilizer use than the manure going into the process?

  3. Submitted by Wanda Ballentine on 08/18/2009 - 06:00 pm.

    That we may collectively think, even for a moment, that this is “renewable” electricity, betrays how little we understand about our life support systems. That the engineer in the video imagines that he’s in a closed loop system illustrates yet another blind technofix unaware of unintended consequences.

    (E.g., 100 truck trips a day; feeding 49 million turkeys – if we think using poop as fertilizer does that, we’d best review some laws of physics; intensive inputs into monocropping, including fertilizers, pesticides, antibiotics, destruction of land, poisoning of earth, air, water; environmental impacts of distribution of turkey “products,” including but not limited to shipping, packaging, waste disposal; animal cruelty and perpetuation of our own disconnection from our earthly co-habitants and habitat; one could go on and on.)

    We can’t go on living this way, and can’t possibly substitute our way out of this mess.

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