Photo: Chesapeake Utilites Corp.
Full Circle Dairy will host a $22-million renewable gas energy facility.
Economic Backbone: Energy
At a Madison County dairy farm, FPU Renewables is turning cow manure into energy.
By this time next year, thousands of North Florida homes will be powered by natural gas drawn from cow manure, an emerging source of clean, renewable energy.
FPU Renewables is investing $22 million to build a dairy manure renewable natural gas (RNG) facility at Full Circle Dairy in Madison County, about 55 miles east of Tallahassee.
Methane comprises nearly two-thirds of cow manure’s content. The gas is more than 25 times as potent as carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere, the Environmental Protection Agency says. Reducing methane emissions “could help save our Arctic summer sea ice, slow climate change and protect countless animals that make sea ice home,” a 2022 Environmental Defense Fund study found.
Once the Madison County facility is up and running, FPU Renewables says it should reduce greenhouse gas emissions equal to a year of driving by more than 6,000 cars.
FPU Renewables’ parent, the Florida Public Utilities Co., is a Chesapeake Utilities Corp. subsidiary. Chesapeake president and CEO Jeff Householder says the company is continuing to “look for ways to displace more carbon-intensive fuels” and “working hard to develop waste-to-energy production facilities and associated infrastructure that improve agricultural conditions in Florida and other service areas.”
Manure from Full Circle Dairy’s 3,200 Holstein milking cows will go into an anaerobic digester, where it ferments, generating a methane and carbon dioxide biogas. That gas, which otherwise would be released naturally into the atmosphere, is purified and used as an energy source. The remaining material, called digestate, is used as a crop fertilizer.
Full Circle Dairy already invested in solar energy and hopes, as one member of the family-owned farm said, to “turn this facility into a green machine, so to speak.”
In more ways than one. FPU Renewables is paying Full Circle to lease the land for the plant, and, once it’s up and running, the farm gets an undisclosed cut for each metric million British thermal unit (MMBtu) generated.
FPU Renewables also has broken ground on an RNG injection point in Yulee, north of Jacksonville, that can accept the RNG for distribution into its network of pipelines for consumer use.
TECO People’s Gas recently opened a similar facility at Alliance Dairies in Levy County. That farm has 6,500 cows, producing enough waste to power 4,400 homes.