Duke University and Duke Energy are working together to create a green machine from hog waste.
The university and the power company, with financial assistance from state and federal agencies, recently broke ground on a pilot system for managing hog waste that can control greenhouse gas emissions, reduce pollutants and generate renewable energy.
The prototype, built on a 9,000-head facility in Yadkin County, is expected to be fully operational in mid-February.
Hog waste is more than an odor problem. Waste lagoons produce methane, which is far more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas. Unlike carbon dioxide, however, methane is a great fuel.
The $1.08 million system being built at Loyd Ray Farms uses mostly off-the-shelf technology, including a lined and covered anaerobic digester and a lined aeration basin. Methane collected from the digester will be used to run a "micro-turbine" to generate more than 600 megawatt-hours of clean energy a year, enough to sustain about 50 houses.
Capturing the methane creates carbon offset credits for Duke University, and using it to generate electricity creates renewable energy credits for Duke Energy.