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Consumer Energy launches project to produce renewable energy from farm waste

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Consumers Energy is launching a first of its kind pilot project in Michigan producing renewable natural gas from farm waste.

Kent County’s Swisslane Farms is partnering with Consumers Energy constructing a $17 million biodigester designed for capturing methane gas produced from cow manure and convert it into clean renewable natural gas.

“It could really be a big deal if it works and we think it will,” said West Michigan Media Relations Specialist and Spokesman with Consumers Energy, Josh Paciorek. He explains the biodigester is a win-win. Currently, cow manure is stored in open lagoons where its methane escapes into the atmosphere. Methane is a greenhouse gas 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide. The biodigester will remove that methane – clean and condition it – then send it into existing pipelines.

“It’s going to require MPSC (Michigan Public Service Commission) regulatory approval, but if it’s approved it could start production in late 2023 and the biodigester at Swisslane Farms could produce enough RNG annually to heat about 1,000 homes on a cold winter day,” Paciorek said.

Paciorek points out there are thousands of rural farms located across the state. It’s a money-making opportunity for them, producing RNG for heating homes or drying grain while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.