Large dairies produce a lot of milk … and a lot of smelly cow manure, which emits methane – a powerful greenhouse gas.

With more than 60,000 concentrated animal feeding operations in the U.S., the biowaste problem is enormous. But Clean Energy North America, a Milwaukee-based company, has a creative solution:

The firm installed an anaerobic digester at Wisconsin’s New Chester Dairy — a 9,000-cow operation. This digester collects waste and extracts the methane. It’s then piped underground to Brakebush Brothers, a nearby chicken processing plant. There, it’s made into electricity that’s used to power 80 percent of the facility.

Sim: “When you put an anaerobic digester, particularly at a dairy farm or a large feedlot, you are helping them enormously with their waste product. You’re also taking methane out of the atmosphere.”

That’s Murray Sim of Clean Energy North America. He says most anaerobic digesters are small, farm-owned machines that create energy for on-site use. This project’s large scale made it expensive to install, but Sim expects it to provide a good financial return, creating a win for investors and the earth.

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media.
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Diana Madson

Diana Madson contributed regularly to Yale Climate Connections from 2014 to 2021. She enjoys exploring U.S.-based stories about unexpected and innovative solutions to climate change. In addition to her...