Farmers benefit from using methane digesters while helping environment

By Pauline Bartolone, CALmatters.

Not far from the Amish farms of Central Pennsylvania, in the rolling hills southwest of coal mining country, Dennis Brubaker raises 30,000 pigs a year for slaughter. In four enclosed barns, the hogs gain two pounds a day away from predators. That is, until they are shipped away to be processed for supermarkets.

“All they have to do is eat and drink,” says Brubaker, co-owner of Ideal Family Farms in Beavertown, Pennsylvania. “They’re just very comfortable, and that’s what turns into growth.”

After Brubaker and his three brothers bought the farm in 2007, energy costs were spiking. So Dennis started researching renewable energy methods to reduce electricity costs. Wind power and solar energy weren’t the best options. Instead, he chose a system that gave purpose to the seven million gallons of pig waste that run through his farm every year: a million dollar methane digester. The 16-foot deep concrete cauldron in the ground captures the potent greenhouse gas from the manure and routes it to an engine, where the methane combusts, and generates enough electricity every day to power 100 homes and heat half his farm.