Farm of the Future: the Haubenschild Farms Anaerobic Digester

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by Kari Rudd, The Minnesota Project - February 2006
Type: 
Non CERTs

The Haubenschild family business is a lot more than a dairy farm; it’s a renewable energy generation plant, a research facility, and a model for the future of agriculture in a society committed to clean air, drinkable water and curbing global warming.

The Haubenschilds installed their biogas digester in 1999. The total upfront cost of $355,000 was offset by their knowledge that the project would eventually pay for itself and would also benefit the environment.

“Manure is a valuable resource that we need to use to its fullest extent,” says Dennis Haubenschild. The family has certainly taken full advantage of this resource, so plentiful on their 800-cow dairy farm near Princeton, Minnesota.

The digester works by moving manure through a covered, 350,000-gallon in-ground concrete tank. The manure is heated by pipes suspended inside the digester, creating the conditions needed for biogas. The biogas is captured and used to power a 130kW internal combustion engine generator, which creates electricity. The hot water used in this process goes to heat the barn floor after it’s recovered from the generator’s cooling jacket.

The clean energy innovation doesn’t stop there, however. Some of the biogas created in the Haubenschilds’ digester is routed to a new research facility on the farm, to power a 5kW fuel cell.

The Haubenschields have partnered with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, The Minnesota Project, and the University of Minnesota Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering Department to conduct fuel cell research using biogas from the farm’s anaerobic digester.

February 2005 was the first time the fuel cell was operated using biogas, and researchers have found that emissions are essentially undetectable.

The energy produced by the fuel cell will keep increasing as University of Minnesota researchers continue to improve the quality of the methane derived from the Haubenschilds’ biogas. They do this by removing impurities such as moisture, carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide.

Recently, The Haubenschild Farms’ environmentally sound energy choices have really paid off. The Dairy has become one of the first in the country to sell carbon credits on the Chicago Climate Exchange.

Because the dairy is too small to work directly with the exchange, Dennis Haubenschild partnered with Environmental Credit Corporation, a credit aggregator that sells carbon credits to the Chicago Climate Exchange, as well as directly to power companies, industries, and other parties. The Environmental Credit Corporation certified and registered the Haubenschilds’ carbon credits with the Chicago Climate Exchange and later traded them for cash.

The number of carbon credits the Haubenschilds were able to trade was based on the amount of methane that does not enter the atmosphere, thanks to their anaerobic digester.

Haubenschild Farms provides an excellent model for the future of farming by showing others that through renewable energy development, farms can be economically viable because they are environmentally sustainable.

For more information, contact:
Amanda Bilek
The Minnesota Project
651-645-6159, ext 5
abilek@mnproject.org

For farmers interested in ECC’s carbon credit program, contact:
Jim Jensen
814-235-1623
jjensen@envcc.com
or visit ECC’s website at:
www.envcc.com

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    CERTs Partners:

Minnesota Department of Commerce University of Minnesota Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships and Extension Great Plains Institute Southwest Regional Development Commission