Local company is taking waste and making it into energy

By: Frank Waugh Email
By: Frank Waugh Email

Reducing waste is always a good thing. Reducing waste and saving money at the same time is even better. Culver Duck Farms in Middlebury are doing just that thanks to some new equipment.

“We produce roughly 100,000 ducks a week and as you know part of that is going to be a waste product,” says Tim McLaughlin the director of operations at Culver Duck. “The waste product in the past was actually selling back for pet food.”

Now, that waste doesn't go into pet food, it goes into a digester.

“It is just being stirred up like a big blender, that the concept but a lot slower,” says Don Young a renewable energy manager at Culver Duck.

An over grown kitchen appliance is known as a digester.

“We mix the waste from the processing plant and other byproducts into what I call a reception pit, and that gets pumped into the digester, and I have three big agitators that stir it up and that helps create the methane gas,” says Don.

Bugs inside this clean green vessel do the dirty work, breaking down the waste into a valuable gas.

“The methane gas, once that is created it goes to my three generators and that produces electricity and that goes right to the grid,” explains Don.

At full capacity, these generators will produce 1.2 megawatts of electricity, that's enough to power the entire Culver Duck facility, plus more than 100 homes.

“The roughly 18 tons a day, that was going to pet food is now going to generate electricity,” explains Tim. “Right now we are selling all of the electricity that we generate back to the NIPSCO grid, supplying electricity not only for our processing plant but for homes in this area also.”

While, methane may be the most valuable of the byproducts, it isn't the only thing that gets kicked out of the digester. Every day, it spits out what is known as soil enhancement.

“Soil enhancement is like a good starter fertilizer, it's good nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus, pot ash, stuff like that, so good for plants, lawns, local farmers stuff like that,” says Don.

The final byproduct is water, which is cleaned on site, by nature.

“The waste left over from the digester goes into the wet lands, and that goes through some filtrating systems, then it gets cleaned up through cattails and other grasses, it goes into our lagoons and that goes right out to the pivots that irrigate the farm fields,” explains Don.

Fields that will eventually provide feed for ducks, completing this sustaining cycle.

“It speaks to the quality of Culver Duck, in what we are willing to do to sustain the future,” says Tim.

According to Culver Duck, they are the only duck processing company in the Western Hemisphere that is using bio-generation to reduce their waste and generate electricity.

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