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CVPS Cow Power, Audets Receive State's Highest Environmental Honor


CVPS Cow Power, the nation's first manure-to-energy renewable choice program, and Blue Spruce Farm, its first energy producer, were honored today with the Vermont Governor's Award for Environmental Excellence.

The award, the state of Vermont's highest environmental award, was given in honor of environmental benefits that include improved air and water quality, reduced greenhouse gases, and generation of clean, renewable energy. The award was presented to CVPS Cow Power coordinator David Dunn and Marie Audet of Blue Spruce Farm by Governor James Douglas during a ceremony at the Statehouse.

"Through their partnership, the Audet family and Central Vermont Public Service have given new economic hope to many of our Vermont farms while providing customers a fully renewable energy choice," Douglas said. "In creating CVPS Cow Power the company built an entirely new economic and environmental model for manure management, and the Audets were brave enough to become pioneers and prove that it would work. Together with the 3,700-plus customers who have enrolled, CVPS and the Audets have shown the way for the many farmers who will follow their lead."

CVPS created Cow Power in late 2004 to provide farmers with a new income stream and customers a way to "vote" for renewable energy through enrollment. Customers pay a premium of 4 cents per kilowatt hour for CVPS Cow Power, which goes to participating farm-producers, to purchase renewable energy credits when enough farm energy isn't available, or to the CVPS Renewable Development Fund. The fund provides grants to farm owners to develop on-farm generation. Farm-producers are also paid 95 percent of the market price for the energy sold to CVPS.

The generation concept is simple. Manure is held in a sealed concrete tank at the same temperature as a cow's stomach, 101 degrees. Bacteria digest the volatile components, creating methane and killing pathogens and weed seeds. The methane fuels a generator, and the energy is put onto CVPS's power lines for delivery to customers. The processed farm waste can be separated into solids and liquid. The solids can be dried and used as cow bedding or composted for home and garden use, while the liquid, which is virtually odorless, can be spread as fertilizer on the farm as it has been for hundreds of years.

The environmental benefits are significant. They include:
  • Improved manure management, and air and water quality.
  • The capture of methane, which is roughly 20 times worse than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere.
  • Destruction of pathogens, including e coli, in the manure.
  • Destruction of weed seeds, which may reduce the need for herbicides.
  • Reduced fossil fuel use through the use of generator heat to produce hot water.
  • Replacement of sawdust bedding with dry solids, and reduced fossil fuels for hauling sawdust.
  • Virtual elimination of odor when spreading liquid manure on fields.
"While there are significant financial benefits for farm producers of CVPS Cow Power, it's ultimately a partnership between the company, our customers and our farm producers to better the environment," President Bob Young said. "Our greatest hope is that it is copied across the country."

"We are honored to receive this award as an affirmation of the commitment throughout our farming community to manage the waste we produce in an environmentally responsible way," Marie Audet said. "We are also humbled by the thousands of people paying a little extra each month, making a statement that they not only support renewable energy, but agriculture in Vermont."

Blue Spruce was the first farm to produce CVPS Cow Power, but it was recently joined by Pleasant Valley Farm in Berkshire. Green Mountain Dairy in Sheldon, Montagne Farms in St. Albans, Newmont Farms in Fairlee, and Deer Flat Farms in Pawlet are expected on-line this year.





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