A new project launched recently will look at the potential to turn pig manure on New Zealand farms into energy, significantly reducing harmful greenhouse gas emissions.
The Pork Industry (NZPork), the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) and the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) have joined together to launch the eight month project which will evaluate using manure in different biogas systems on farms.
Farm biogas systems convert methane emitted from farm manure into renewable energy resources that can be used to power the farm, or in some cases, exported to the local electricity network. Using manure for biogas has many benefits including reducing harmful emissions and limiting nutrient leaching through improved storage. Using a waste product to generate energy also reduces costs and can provide security of energy supply to rural farms and communities.
The pork industry has the overall capacity to produce over 8,500 tonnes of methane annually, which has the potential to generate over 100 GWh (400,000 GJ) of renewable energy each year. "The New Zealand pork industry has identified a significant potential opportunity to better manage our emissions, and deliver on our climate change goals, said New Zealand Pork Chief Executive Sam McIvor.
'We are committed to taking a lead role in the reduction of industry emissions and we already have several projects underway. Working in partnership with EECA and MAF means we can identify the most effective projects and share that knowledge across the whole industry," McIvor said.
"Managing energy use and using renewable energy are two key ways a business can move towards more sustainable practices and save on their energy bills at the same time."
The initial research stages of the project were supported by MAF's Sustainable Farming Fund. "Reducing the emissions from our agriculture sector is a key goal for New Zealand, said James Stevenson-Wallace, Manager - Sustainable Businesses, at MAF.
10 systems assessed
The project will assess up to 10 individual farm biogas systems across various regions and farm sizes and the results will be used to inform the industry of the most effective opportunities for their farms. "The feasibility studies will create a basis of knowledge for pork producers, whether small or large, to learn about new options to create additional energy, and therefore value, from manure,' McIvor said.
"As we gather experience with farm-scale biogas systems, NZPork envisages that the industry may develop a regional network of biogas installations. The longer-term aim is to use our learnings to benefit the primary production sector as a whole by providing concrete learnings and plans to help reduce greenhouse gases," McIvor said.
"The programme will help pork producers improve their environmental performance, improve their energy efficiency and achieve cost savings for their businesses at a time when electricity and fuel costs are rising,' said Mike Underhill.