Dairy Power

Dairy Energy, Inc. is a subsidiary of Vanderhyde Dairy, Inc. Dairy Energy takes a byproduct of dairy production, manure, and uses it as a resource for electrical power production.

“We take the methane out of the cow manure gas and run it as fuel in an internal combustion engine to generate electric power,” Dairy Energy president Roy Van der Hyde said. “I always look at technology to help our income, so building an anaerobic digester made sense.”

Dairy Energy produces an excess of 300,000 kilowatt-hours of power every month, or over 3,500,000 kilowatt-hours of power to year. That’s enough to power 300 households. The biodigester/generator system eliminates the carbon dioxide equivalent of 470 passenger vehicles from the road or 5,600 barrels of oil annually. The extra energy is sold to Dominion Power, a Richmond-based electric company.

In order to create and capture significant quantities of methane for fuel, an anaerobic digester is employed. The digester is the key to power generation process. Basically, the digester mixes and heats the manure to release methane faster. The anaerobic digester cost $2.5 million and was paid for in part by Vanderhyde Dairy along with federal and state pathfinder grants.

In addition to power production, the anaerobic digester system provides the dairy other significant advantages. First, the elimination of methane on the farm greatly reduces the odor the dairy typically generates. This is significant since the main dairy operates close to Chatham, Virginia. Only on the hottest days do town residents in nearby Chatham, Virginia, notice the dairy’s ongoing operations.

Second, The anaerobic digester is a great waste management tool for Vanderhyde Dairy. The anaerobic digester reduces the total amount of solid manure the dairy manages. This reduces reliance on the dairy’s manure holding ponds. Traditionally, the ponds are used to hold manure until it can be spread on the dairy’s feedstock fields as fertilizer. While manure is still spread on fields, the reduction makes the entire process much more manageable.

“Maximizing our resources while providing optimum cattle care is what we’re all about,” Van der Hyde said.