Updated: Tuesday, 12 Jan 2010, 1:14 PM CST
Published : Tuesday, 12 Jan 2010, 1:14 PM CST
DORCHESTER, Wisc. (CNN) - Steve Bach's family dairy farm sits just outside the village of Dorchester. His herd, 2,600 head of cattle also on his farm, is an engine.
The engine is just one part of a complex machine that takes cattle waste and turns it into power. It literally separates cow manure, removing the solid, from the methane gas. That gas goes through an engine, which powers a generator and produces electricity.
That energy is then pumped into powerlines and into hundreds of rural Dorchester homes. It is a process that is making use of a smelly product and making Bach money.
"I think for the sale of the electricity and getting better usage of the manure coming out of the cows," said Bach. "I put it mostly in bedding, to bed my cattle and cut my manure odor for the local community."
Bach herd produces about 30,000 gallons of waste daily. Before he started digesting it, that waste was stored in pits and spread on fields for fertilizer. It is still put on field now, but without methane gas, it is far less stinky.
"The methane is what gives the odor to the manure and I live really close to Dorchester," said Bach. "So, by putting this in, it should take all the odor out of the manure when we spread the manure in the fields in the spring and fall."
The electricity is distributed to homes by Taylor Electric Cooperative.
"It's using that waste and it's helping reduce the amount of methane being released and renewable energy, of course, helps us reduce that dependency on foreign oil," said Taylor Electric Cooperative president and CEO Mike Schaefer.
About 90 percent of Taylor's Electric power comes from coal. Now, by using a resource found on hundreds of farms in the area, that dependency is greatly reduced.
"We're the dairy state," said Bach. "We should be able to get more of these and produce energy out of it. I think it's just a great thing."
The solid part of the waste is used for cow bedding. bach uses about half for his herd and sells the other half to other area farmers.