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Harnessing the power of cow...

From http://www.cvps.com/cowpower/faq.shtml :

What is CVPS Cow Power™ ?

CVPS Cow Power™ is a voluntary service rider intended to help promote development and reliance on renewable energy in Vermont, by creating a market for energy generated by burning methane from cow manure and supporting other renewable energy sources. Most customers with good payment histories and current accounts may choose to be CVPS Cow Power™ customers. Street-lighting accounts are not eligible.

Why is CVPS offering Cow Power™ ?

We believe CVPS Cow Power™ offers significant benefits to our customers, participating Vermont farmers and the environment, and furthers state policy. Some customers want to reduce their reliance on non-renewable energy, so providing customers with a renewable energy choice is important. Cow Power will provide a new income stream to participating farmers, help reduce some of the water quality impacts of farming through the introduction of innovative manure management technologies, and significantly reduce manure odors, particularly during spreading. Participating farms may also reduce bedding costs by using dry byproducts of the process in place of sawdust or other bedding. Funds not supporting farm methane power will support other renewable generation resources.

How does the generation system work?

An anerobic digester is built on the farm, where the manure is collected. The design chosen by Blue Spruce Farm in Bridport was a solid concrete tank with a solid concrete cover. The top of the tank is level with the ground. The digester is large, roughly 14 by 72 by 100 feet, and looks similar to a feed bunker. Other designs have a flexible cover, and still others are built using an upright gas-tight silo. The gas is created by bacteria, which produce "biogas".

The anaerobic digestion process works by holding the farm waste at roughly 100 degrees for 20-plus days. In the process, the volatile solids are first converted to acids that become the feed for bacteria. After the bacteria work their magic, the waste emerges from the digester as more consistent slurry, with significantly reduced odors. Gas produced by the bacteria builds up pressure in the concrete vessel, and a pipe delivers the gas to a modified natural gas engine. The gas is then burned to generate electricity, which is fed onto the CVPS electrical system.

What environmental benefits are associated with a project like this?

Dairy farms that choose to build anaerobic digesters are usually motivated by several factors. One factor is the ability of the technology to reduce manure odor.

Many farms want to reduce odors, since they live nearby, and care about their neighbors’ perceptions of their operations.

Typical manure storage facilities allow methane to escape into the environment, while a farm with a digester captures the methane. Methane is roughly 20 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. The generation process produces CO2, but on the Blue Spruce Farm in Bridport, for example, the reduction in CO2 equivalents is estimated at 2,000 to 3,000 tons annually.

Another benefit of the holding time at 100 degrees in the digester is a virtually complete destruction of the harmful pathogens like E.coli and M. avium parat uberculosis, the organism responsible for Johne’s Disease. This will have a positive effect on workers handling the waste.

An additional benefit of the anaerobic digester is the effect on the biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) of the organic slurry. BOD is reduced during the digestion process. This results in reduced impact on aquatic organisms should an accidental spill or unintended runoff into a body of water occur.

Many farms that have installed anaerobic digesters in the last few years have also chosen to employ a new manure management tool. They process digested manure through a mechanical separator. The solids can be dried and used to replace sawdust or sand as bedding for the animals, since all the disease-causing organisms are killed during the digestion process. Solids not used for bedding may be further processed and sold to the public or garden centers as a soil amendment or garden compost.

Farmers can store the liquid portion of the digested manure and periodically spread on farm fields as was previously done with whole raw manure. This reduced-odor fertilizer is thinner, and more easily incorporated into the soil, reducing the potential for unintended runoff. Farms will also be able to spread at times during the warm summer months, when historically they might have been reluctant for fear of odors offending neighbors. Warm dry soil is more likely to absorb the liquid fertilizer.

Is there a fee for customers to sign up?

No, but customers who choose CVPS Cow Power™ will pay an extra 4 cents per kilowatt hour for their electricity. For a residential customer using 500 kWh per month, that would add $20 to the monthly electric bill, which would benefit farmers or otherwise support renewable energy markets.

What if I want to participate, but don’t want to pay that much more?

Customers may choose to buy 25 percent, 50 percent, or all of their electricity through the Cow Power rider. A customer using 500 kWh per month who chooses to receive 25 percent of their power under the rider would pay only an additional $5 a month. At 50 percent Cow Power, that customer would pay an additional $10.

Where does the money go?

For every kilowatt-hour requested by customers and provided by a Vermont farm, CVPS will pay the farmer the market price for energy plus the Cow Power charge of 4 cents for the environmental benefits of the generation. If not enough kilowatt-hours are available from participating CVPS farms, CVPS will attempt to acquire and retire Renewable Energy Certificates from other regional renewable generation, issued by the regional system operator, to support renewable generation in a broader sense. If no certificates are available in the regional market for 4 cents per kWh or less, the company will deposit Cow Power payments into the CVPS Renewable Development Fund. This fund, overseen by an independent board, will provide incentives to farmers to stimulate further renewable farm generation in the CVPS service area. CVPS will not profit from the program.

What does the CVPS Renewable Development Fund do?

Fund activities include: a) providing grants, loans and other incentives to farms to support methane generation? project development, operation and interconnection to the electric system; b) supporting efforts to commercialize renewable generation by farm-producers; c) demonstrating and commercializing renewable generation using agricultural products, byproducts or waste; d) educating potential farm-producers on energy technology and development; and e) overcoming market barriers that prevent farm-producers from developing renewable generation projects in CVPS territory.

If funds go to other renewable energy certificates, what types of energy will be supported with CVPS Cow Power™ money?

In addition to farm-based generation in CVPS’s service territory, other qualifying resources will include farm generation that may be located outside of the CVPS service territory, and solar, wind, small hydro and bio-mass producers certified by the states of Massachusetts and Connecticut for compliance with their renewable electric utility performance standards. Like farm generation, the resources targeted in these performance standards are generally newer technologies that have yet to reach widespread commercial use. These sources would only be relied upon if farmers in CVPS’s service territory did not supply enough electricity to meet demand.

Are there special terms and conditions that apply to CVPS Cow Power™ ?

Generally, Cow Power service is subject to the same terms and conditions that apply to all customers. Because this service is voluntary, the following special terms and conditions also apply: a) The company reserves the right to require contracts of up to three years for customers on Rates 4, 5 and 10, large commercial and industrial customers, since enrollment or loss of their high usage could have major effects on the service; b) We will remove you from the program if your account falls into arrears, and will remove past due Cow Power charges from your account; and c) Customers taking CVPS Cow Power service are ineligible for the Budget Billing Plan because of accounting problems that would create. We may be able to offer this service to Budget Billing customers in the future.

If I sign up for CVPS Cow Power™ , do I give up any rights as a customer?

No. All existing rules and tariff requirements continue. CVPS Cow Power™ is provided as a voluntary rider to your regular service, so it does not impinge on any of your rights as a customer.

Will my service be subject to disconnection if I fail to pay the Rider charge?

No. If a customer’s account becomes delinquent, the company will remove the customer from the Cow Power program retroactive to the date of the previous bill. No disconnection notice will be based on a customer’s inability to pay for Rider service.

How can I enroll?

Contact the CVPS Customer Information Center at (800) 649-2877, or fill out an enrollment form available at http://www.cvps.com/cowpower/enroll.shtml. There is no fee to enroll. Unless the request is made at or about the time your regular bill is issued, voluntary renewable service will become effective with the next regular bill for all usage included in that bill.

Once I select a percentage of power received through the Cow Power rider, can I change it?

You may change the percentage by calling the CVPS Customer Information Center at 1-800-649-2877. Unless the request is made at or about the time your regular bill is issued, a change in percentage, up or down, will become effective on the next bill for all usage charged on that statement, retroactive to the beginning of the billing cycle.

If I choose to drop the rider, when can I go back to my old rate?

Except for large customers on Rates 4, 5 and 10 who are party to three-year agreements with the company, customers can contact the CVPS Customer Information Center and withdraw at any time. There is no fee to do so. Unless the request is made at or about the time your regular bill is issued, CVPS Cow Power™ service will be terminated effective on the next bill for all usage charged on that statement.

Will I really receive electricity produced from renewable sources?

The electricity delivered under the CVPS Cow Power™ rider will be indistinguishable from other electricity supplied by the company because it is impossible to track the flow of electricity on the regional electric power grid. This is unavoidable because all customers are served through the same transmission and distribution system. Instead, the rider is designed to assure that CVPS Cow Power™ payments support qualifying renewable sources and farm-producers, or are made to the CVPS Renewable Development Fund as approved by state regulators. By participating as a CVPS Cow Power™ customer, you will help create a market for this kind of renewable resource, provide direct incentives to farmers to generate electricity in this way, and supplant other forms of energy generation.

How much renewable energy content is in the CVPS power supply mix - apart from Cow Power?

Approximately 50 percent of CVPS's energy comes from renewable resources - primarily hydro, with some contribution from wood-fueled power plants. Much of CVPS's remaining supply is nuclear power, with only a few percentage points typically coming from fossil fuel plants in a given year. When individual consumers purchase CVPS Cow Power™, each kilowatt-hour paid for will displace some other form of generation, such as fossil fuel plants elsewhere in New England. Electrons on the wires are indistinguishable from one another, but Cow Power customers will be supporting renewable energy and supplanting other forms of generation.

Why focus on farm generation?

The air- and water-quality issues associated with animal waste are significant, and to date, few proposals to develop farm generation have been advanced in Vermont.

Anaerobic treatment of waste significantly reduces odor and water-quality impacts.
Farm methane is otherwise released into the atmosphere. Methane is a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than CO2.

Anaerobic generation should raise fewer aesthetic concerns from neighbors than other renewable options. These generators integrate well into farm landscapes.
Farm generation provides a significant revenue stream, improving dairy economics and diversification, while helping to conserve a working landscape.
The development of farm generators provides renewable power, possibly reducing fossil generation elsewhere, while increasing reliance on homegrown energy production.

Does CVPS Cow Power™ have any kind of state recognition?

The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets supports this technology as an innovative strategy for farm diversification and environmental quality improvement. The Agency has awarded CVPS Cow Power the Commissioner’s Seal of Quality.

Is there a trademark on the name CVPS Cow Power™ ?

CVPS has filed for a service mark on the words “CVPS Cow Power™ ,” but the generic words “cow power” are too common to be trademarked.

Can I claim the 4-cent CVPS Cow Power™ payment as a tax deduction?

No. These payments are for a service, not a donation.

If I enroll as a commercial CVPS Cow Power™ customer, may I advertise my participation? May I include the Seal of Quality in my advertisements?

Yes! Ideally we will be supplying renewable energy from Vermont farm-producers, but even if no local or regional renewable energy is available to meet all the demand, your participation will help fund incentives for other farms to become CVPS Cow Power™ producers. If you would like to advertise your participation, including use of the “Seal of Quality,” you will have to register with the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets. Steven F. Justis, marketing specialist for the agency, can assist you with the registration. Forms are also available at the agency’s web page: www.vermontagriculture.com/soqforms.htm. Depending upon your circumstance, you may qualify as either a “Farm Heritage Partner” or an “Agricultural Partner.” Customers may state that they are "participants in CVPS Cow Power™," but not that their power comes from Cow Power since it is possible that it will come from other renewable sources through the Cow Power program.

Can I buy power directly from the farmer?

No. Vermont law and utility tariffs set out rules for the sale and delivery of electricity. CVPS Cow Power™ is only available through the company. Our goal is to provide significant benefits to local farmers.

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