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Proactive dairymen install digester in Northeast

PD Editor Karen Lee Published on 28 October 2011

Chaput Family Farms is a partnership between brothers Reg and Mike Chaput in North Troy, Vermont. The farm includes 950 cows, 900 heifers, 1,100 acres of tillable land and an anaerobic digester.

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“It just made sense financially to install a digester,” Reg says.

The Chaputs are the sole owners of the digester system. The total cost for installation was just over $2 million, 72 percent of which was covered with grants. They have a 20-year contract with Vermont’s Sustainably Priced Energy Development Program (SPEED) to purchase power for a guaranteed 16 cents a kilowatt.

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In addition, they have a five-year contract with Central Vermont Public Service (CVPS) Cow Power for 4 cents a kilowatt; however, this is not guaranteed and can fluctuate based on consumer support. CVPS owns the carbon credits. All power is put on the grid and sold at the above rates. Power used on the farm is purchased from the grid at the regular retail rate.

It was more than an economic decision for the Chaputs. Reg adds, “My brother and I are very environmentally proactive so this was something we really felt we needed to do for the betterment of everyone.”

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The digester that came online in August 2010 is providing enough electricity to power 250 average homes and bringing additional revenue to the farm without a great deal of outlay for upkeep. However, like everything else on the farm, it does demand some attention to continue to perform well.

“This is one more thing to manage. It’s a two-year to three-year commitment to get one completed from start to finish and then attention afterward, so it will take time from your dairy,” Reg says. “Make sure you have the personnel ready to take this project on, or your dairy will suffer.”

Overall, he comments that the installation and operation of a digester is going as well as they could hope. To get the digester built, the Chaputs had to work with 12 to 15 government, regulatory and financial institutions. In order to see more digesters installed on farms, Reg says, “It would be our hope that the red tape to getting a digester online can be streamlined.” PD

Karen Lee
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