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Poultry Litter to Power - a Good Trade Off?

by 5m Editor
21 January 2008, at 10:33am

US - When Chris Martin, a Wilkes County chicken grower, wades through a flock of 25,000 birds, he’s walking on a new source of electricity, writes Monte Mitchell and James Romoser, <i>JournalNow</i>.

The bedding known as chicken litter - a mix of wood shavings, manure, feathers and spilled feed - has long been spread on fields as a fertilizer, but chicken litter has a new state-mandated use as a source of alternative energy.

A plant that burns the litter is proposed for either Wilkes or Surry County. Martin says he thinks that it’s a great idea reports JournalNow.

“That’s going to solve everybody’s problem with the litter,” he said. “It’s a sweet deal. They’ll come out to your farm and clean your chicken house out free of charge and pay you $2 a ton.”

The mandate is part of a sweeping state energy law that will require power companies to begin using renewable resources so that by 2020, 12.5 percent of the electricity provided by public utilities must come from renewable sources or be saved through conservation. The law also makes North Carolina the only state in the country with a mandate for energy produced by burning poultry litter.

However, the report says some critics question whether it is a wise energy policy. To them, it seems counterintuitive to require the burning of animal waste in a law that was intended to promote energy efficiency and reduce North Carolina’s reliance on dirty fossil fuels.

Because it takes fuel to haul the litter from the farm to the plant, burning poultry litter uses energy to make energy. And unlike such "green" energy as wind and solar power, poultry-litter plants emit some pollutants at levels similar to modern coal plants.

In addition, the mandate comes at a cost. Like other forms of alternative energy, poultry litter is likely to be more expensive than traditional coal and nuclear power. To pay for the new energy sources, including litter, the law allows customers’ electric bills to increase by as much as $34 a year by 2015.

More detail at: JournalNow

5m Editor