The concept for the Storms Hog Power waste-to-energy project evolved from a grant for four swine farm renewable energy pilot projects administered by the NC Department of Energy, applied for in May of 2010 by Sam Ravenel, co-founder of Withers & Ravenel consulting engineers, and Dr. Garth Boyd, Senior Partner of The Prasino Group. The 600 kW plant has been in near constant operation since it came on line October 4, 2013, and has sustained peak or near peak output for the past 90 days.
Dr. Boyd formed AgPower Partners LLC (APP) with energy and real estate developer, Jeffrey R. Smerko, to develop the Storms project. APP enlisted the services of key industry leaders DVO, Inc. for its patented Two-Stage Mixed Plug FlowTM anaerobic digester, Martin Machinery/GenTec for its biogas engine/generator turn-key services, Barnhill Contracting Company for construction management and expertise, and CohnReznick LLP for accounting and tax advisory services.
APP was able to facilitate construction and term debt financing through Cape Fear Farm Credit for the project owner and operator, William R. Storms, who is also the farm owner and operator.
“Dr. Boyd and I put a great team together, but without the vision, conviction and financial commitment of Mr. Storms and the hard work and dedication of his sons-in-law Matthew Long and Don Britt, we would not be standing here today witness to this revolution in the industry," said Jeff Smerko, managing principal of AgPower Partners. "Hopefully others will embrace this concept as proven, scalable, and economical.”
What is really amazing, Smerko noted, is what you don’t see or actually, smell. "Spending the better part of the past two and a half years down here, I thought that I had just grown accustomed to it," he explained. "But that’s not it. The odor now is virtually gone.”
Benefits of AD
According to Steve Dvorak, owner and founder of DVO, Inc, anaerobic digestion presents many benefits far beyond power generation. “For progressive hog farmers like Mr. Storms, it’s also about being a good steward of the land," he explained. "Our digesters reduce greenhouse gas emissions from stored and land-distributed farm wastes by roughly 90%. Pathogens in farm waste, including e-coli and salmonella, are reduced so much that they are almost undetectable, and our new nutrient recovery technologies allow for the practical removal of additional phosphorus and ammonia nitrogen.”
Storms Hog Power anaerobic digester and renewable energy generating system -- in tandem with an enhanced animal waste extraction and collection system that uses scrapers instead of flush water to remove manure from the houses -- greatly reduces the negative environmental impacts of the current lagoon and spray field manure management systems, while profitably generating renewable energy and other valuable byproducts.
Manure collected daily from nearly 30,000 hogs, formerly treated in open air lagoons, mixed with off-site agricultural wastes which were previously either land applied or destined for a landfill, is biologically decomposed in an oxygen-free, 1.2 million gallon reinforced concrete vessel. The bacteria in the digester metabolically break down the organic waste streams and generate energy-rich biogas, while destroying nearly all of the pathogens and odor. The biogas is combusted in an engine/generator, sending enough clean renewable electricity to the local utility to offset the electricity consumption of nearly 300 average size homes in the area.