Holy cow power! Vermont has largest anaerobic digester in New England

Published: Jul. 21, 2021 at 5:52 PM EDT
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SALISBURY, Vt. (WCAX) - The largest anaerobic digester in New England is now in Vermont. It uses cow manure and food waste to make energy. And it’s not just being used by the farm, it’s helping the community.

“But first, I really want us to thank our herd of cows who are often most overlooked at these kinds of things,” said Chase Goodrich of the Goodrich Farm in Salisbury.

Chase Goodrich and Danielle Goodrich Gingras are third-generation farmers. The brother and sister knew changes needed to be made to diversify income and decrease the farm’s impact on the environment.

“I think this will definitely help farming move into the future and stay relevant and viable,” Chase Goodrich said.

Partnering with Middlebury College, Vermont Gas Systems and Vanguard Renewables, they have created New England’s largest anaerobic digester.

“To get to this day where the governor is here and this event, I don’t think we ever could have imagined this, ever not in our wildest dreams,” said Danielle Goodrich Gingras.

The machine uses cow manure and food waste from places like the Cabot Creamery to create energy. That renewable natural gas will be bought and used by customers of VGS. But most will be bought by Middlebury College in their effort to be fully powered by renewable energy.

“The college was looking for a partner, finding a local Addison family farm was just a dream come true,” said David Provost of Middlebury College.

The molecules that are released are actually being used the same day as energy for people who are powered by VGS.

“We want to put renewable natural gas in our system to help displace fossil fuels and we see more projects like this coming down the line here in Vermont,” said Neale Lunderville of VGS.

The idea for this started more than a decade ago.

“Granted, it’s complicated and it takes a lot of time, but the Goodrich family, I believe, is maybe blazing a trail for farmers in Vermont, New York, New Hampshire and across the country,” Vt. Agriculture Secretary Anson Tebbetts said.

The system has also created another revenue stream for the farm by making bedding, creating happier cows that produce better milk.

There are other savings as well.

“The goal is to stop having to purchase commercial fertilizer and use the digestate. And there is a lease agreement with Vanguard, so yeah, it’s a win-win for us all the way around,” Danielle Goodrich Gingras said.

Cow powered and approved.

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