Municipality approved to make electricity from mink manure

Weaver Settlement project gets COMFIT approval

Jonathan Riley, Digby Courier
Published on March 28, 2013

The project in Weaver Settlement will look similar to one of these domed buildings.

courtesy of Municipality of the District of Digby

The Municipality of the District of Digby is one step closer to making electricity and money from mink manure.

The Department of Energy has approved a renewable energy project in Weaver Settlement for the community feed-in tariff (COMFIT) – meaning the municipality can sell the electricity they generate to Nova Scotia Power at a special, higher than normal, price.

Linda Gregory, warden of The Municipality of the District of Digby, says they are pleased to be part of the province’s energy strategy. 

“This project is one more step in the municipality's path towards creating a positive environment for renewable energy investment in Digby,” she said. “Digby is on its way to becoming champions for tidal, biomass, wind and solar energy.  This project will lead towards improved stewardship for the mink industry and have the added benefit of reducing harmful greenhouse gases.”  

The municipality plans to burn methane gas collected from an anaerobic digestor in Weaver Settlement.

South West Eco Energy is building the 1,500-cubic-metre round and dome-shaped facility.

They will be picking up mink manure and waste feed from local farms and collecting it in their facility.

The anaerobic digestor heats the manure, agitates it and allows special bacteria that work in the absence of oxygen to break down the organic matter.

South West Eco Energy then collects the resulting methane gas and sells it to the municipality.

The municipality is installing a generator on the site to burn the gas and make electricity.

The municipality has just accepted a bid of $425,000 from Martin Machinery in Latham Missouri to supply the 300-kilowatt generator.

The province approved the municipality to produce 600 kw. So if South West Eco Energy decides to expand and build a second digestor, the municipality is approved to install a second generator.

The COMFIT approval means the municipality has a 20-year purchase agreement with Nova Scotia Power who will buy the electricity for 17.5 cents per kilowatt.

The cost of hooking up the generator has yet to be determined—now that the project has been approved for COMFIT, Nova Scotia Power is doing a system impact study.

The municipality has hired CBCL for $22,000 to represent them and work with NSPI on the study.

Terry Thibodeau, the municipality’s renewable energy coordinator says the hook up, including special grid protection equipment, could cost $150,000 or more.

Thibodeau says the generator should pay for itself within seven to ten years and they’d be happy to get 20 years service out of it.

Initial tests indicate the gas produced in the anaerobic digestor will be around 60 per cent methane and 40 per cent carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulphide and other gases.

The actual performance of the digestor and the resulting gas mix will determine the degree of profitably for the project.

The technology is well-established using cow and hog manure and even sileage but this will be the first anaerobic digestor using mink manure anywhere in the world.

Max Barr, president of South West Eco Energy says they have been studying the technology for years.

"COMFIT provides us with the opportunity to turn this waste into clean, locally generated electricity," he said.

The municipality is also considering eventually adding the area’s organic green bin waste to the digestor.

The Department of Energy announced the COMFIT approval for this project and 13 others on Tuesday, March 26.

The Energy minister Charlie Parker says he is pleased with the vision and collaborative approach of the applicants.

"These projects will result in communities generating power in their own backyards, while providing economic development opportunities in the communities they serve,” said Parker.

The COMFIT program is intended to encourage locally-based renewable energy projects.

To qualify, the projects have to be community-owned and connected at the distribution level (typically under 6MV).

Small wind projects are guaranteed 45 cents per kilowatt hour, large wind projects get 14.5 cents and small tidal gets 65 cents.



13 COMFIT projects approved

The latest round of approved projects include:

-- a 500-kilowatt biomass project in Hasset, Digby County, owned by the Municipality of Digby

-- a 50-kilowatt wind project owned by Annapolis Valley Waste in Kentville

-- the Municipality of Shelburne's 800-kilowatt large wind project in Sandy Point

-- two-megawatt wind projects in Yarmouth and Shelburne, owned by Scotian Windfields -- a 3.2-megawatt wind project owned by Watts Wind Energy, near Porters Lake

-- a 100-kilowatt hydro project owned by Halifax Water

-- a 1.5-megawatt project in Goldboro, Guysborough Co., and two 50-kilowatt projects in Mulgrave, owned by Celtic Current

-- a 50-kilowatt small wind project in Mulgrave owned by the Town of Mulgrave

-- a 500-kilowatt biomass project operated by Windmill Hollsteins in Shubenacadie

-- a 1.9-megawatt project operated by Affinity Renewables in Dean, near Stewiacke and 4.8-megawatt project in Truro.

Next steps for applicants include securing financing, completing a grid-impact study and obtaining the required federal and provincial environmental assessments and approvals.

The Community Feed-in Tariff concept was introduced in the 2010 Renewable Electricity Plan to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, provide a secure supply of clean energy at stable prices and create jobs. The program began accepting applications in September 2011.

The Community Feed-in Tariff allows eligible groups to receive an established price per kilowatt hour (kWh) for projects producing electricity from certain renewable resources. Rates were established by the Utility and Review Board in September.

Projects can include wind, biomass, in-stream tidal and run-of-the-river hydroelectric developments. Eligible groups include municipalities, First Nations, co-operatives, universities and not-for-profit groups.

The COMFIT program is part of the province’s plan to reach its renewable electricity targets of 25 per cent renewable electricity by 2015 and 40 per cent by 2020. The province expects 100 megawatts of electricity to be produced through the COMFIT program.