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Harnett Swine Farmers Generating More Than Hog Waste

June 07, 2012

Two Harnett County farmers are on the cutting edge in North Carolina by capturing methane from their swine operations and using the bio-fuel to generate electricity.

Butler Farms and Black Farms, both outside of Lillington, have become pioneers by installing a hog waste storage system that helps them to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, earn both carbon credits and renewable energy certificates (RECs) and generate electricity.

Butler Farms, which is run by brothers Tom and Robert Butler, has installed a mesophilic digester to gather the swine waste from the two covered lagoons on the 108 acre farm. Heat from the 185 kilowatt (kw) generator engine is captured and pumped into the digester. By the end of the summer, the digester should remain at a consistent 95-105 degrees year round. This consistent temperature in the digester will help to boost the amount of methane produced by the swine waste. The Butlers expects to generate about 1,580 megawatt hours (mwh) of electricity annually.

A few miles down the road, Lemuel D Black III of Black Farms has two covered lagoons which serve as anaerobic digesters. The waste from Black’s eight swine finishing houses is expected to generate about 341 mwh of electricity annually. Black has installed a 60 kw generator, which runs off of methane to produce electricity on his farm.

Both Black Farms and Butler Farms are interconnected with South River Electric Membership Corporation’s electric system. South River EMC purchases the electricity and the RECs produced from the two bio-fuel systems.

“This partnership between South River EMC and the Black and Butler farms has been a win-win for all of us,” said South River EMC CEO Buddy G. Creed. “These farmers are committed to environmentally sound business practices. When they saw an opportunity to take the hog waste already being produced on their farms and turn it into a renewable energy source, they went for it.

We applaud their efforts and are proud to partner with these farmers to demonstrate our shared dedication to environmental stewardship.”

The farms have created a buzz in the agricultural community. United States Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilack, Congresswoman Renee Ellmers and even a crew from the Travel Channel’s show Off Limits have made visits.

South River EMC purchases the RECs to help diversify their renewable energy portfolio and to be in compliance with North Carolina's Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard (REPS) established by Senate Bill 3, enacted by the NC General Assembly in 2007. The bill mandates NC-based electric utilities to purchase or generate a specific amount of renewable energy, or reduce electricity use through energy efficiency improvements. Using a stepped compliance approach, electric cooperatives in North Carolina must purchase or generate 10% of their retail sales with renewable energy or energy efficiency savings by 2018.

A REC is a tradable instrument that is equal to one megawatt hour of electricity or equivalent energy supplied by a renewable energy facility.

South River EMC, a Touchstone Energy cooperative, is a non-profit electric cooperative that provides electricity to over 42,000 homes, farms and businesses in parts of Harnett, Sampson, Cumberland, Johnston and Bladen counties.

(l-r): Tom and Robert Butler, Buddy G. Creed, CEO and Executive Vice President of South River EMC and, Catherine O'Dell, manager of member and public affairs at the Cooperative.

(l-r): Lemuel D Black III, Buddy G. Creed, CEO and Executive Vice President of South River EMC and, Catherine O'Dell, manager of member and public affairs at the Cooperative.