Leading from the Left

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

More on Waste to Energy Proposal

The press conference yesterday to announce the waste-to-energy proposal from Smithfield Foods and Progress Energy was attended by a handful of environmental lobbyists. Progress Energy did not show up, and the discussion was led by representatives from Smithfield and NC Pork Council.

The proposal is still so sketchy that it's hard to say if it's good or bad. However, it does appear to be a step in the right direction. At least now the debate is shifting from "if" we should produce energy from animal waste to "how" we get started. If we're going to deal with global warming seriously in North Carolina, then we have to be willing to experiment with animal waste as a fuel source.

Below is the AP article on the press conference. I think you'll probably agree with me that the proposal is short on detail.

N.C. Pork Council seeks approval for hog waste conversion program

The Associated Press

The North Carolina Pork Council asked legislators Monday to create a pilot program that would test the feasibility of converting hog waste into electricity.

Raleigh-based utility Progress Energy said it would participate in the program if legislators approve it. Murphy-Brown LLC, the Warsaw-based livestock production subsidiary of Smithfield Foods Inc., and others developed the technology to capture methane gas from the farms' anaerobic treatment systems and convert it into electricity, the council said.

"This pilot program will help us see if it will be possible for producers to sell energy at a rate that allows them to justify the capital investment and cover the operating expenses for these projects," said R.C. Hunt, president of the North Carolina Pork Council and a contract hog producer.

Under the program, Progress Energy would purchase the electricity generated at about 18 cents per kilowatt hour _ significantly more than the 4.5 cents to the 5.5 cents usually paid by other non-utility generators, said Dana Yeganian, a Progress Energy spokeswoman.

The proposal would call for a seven-year pilot in which Progress Energy would start buying no later than late 2012, Yeganian said.

The program "will help the hog industry determine if converting hog waste to electricity is economical and feasible and will help us develop reliable and safe systems for connecting renewable generating sources to our grid," said Gene Upchurch, vice president, state public affairs and economic development for Progress Energy.

Hunt said he hoped the process would become more efficient with time.

"From an environmental standpoint, this program makes good sense because we're providing a renewable energy source and, by capturing the methane gas, we're lowering greenhouse gas emissions," Hunt said.