How a dairy farm is turning manure into fuel

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Dairy farm Fair Oaks, part of one of the biggest U.S. dairy co-ops, converts its cow manure into natural gas.

Mike and Sue McCloskey, partners in one of the United States biggest dairy operations, Fair Oaks Farms, have come up with an elegant approach in the hopes of creating a zero-carbon footprint dairy farm.  Fair Oaks Dairy’s goals were to reduce the farm’s odor, improve its nutrient management practices, and generate renewable electricity/power from manure. The farm is also heavily focused on sustainability and being a good steward of the land.

At the heart of the operation: a process that turns their dairies’ tons of cow manure into natural-gas fuel. The entire facility runs on anaerobic digesters which turns into biogas and nutrient rich digestate. The biogas creates enough natural gas to power 10 barns, a cheese factory, a cafe, a gift shop and a maze of child-friendly exhibits about the world of dairy, including a 4D movie theater.  It also is turning manure into fuel for its delivery trucks, powering 42 tractor-trailers that make daily runs to raw milk processing plants in Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee. The farm has reduced its use (and associated costs) of diesel fuel by more than 2 million gallons per year. The surplus clean biogas is piped and sold to a Compressed Natural Gas fueling station.

This story, published in Fortune magazine, describes how it all works.

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