Cow-powered gas to link farm, college

The cows at Goodrich Family Farm in Salisbury will provide the fuel for an anaerobic digester that creates renewable natural gas, to be piped to Middlebury College. PROVIDED PHOTO

MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury College announced Thursday it will reduce its carbon footprint by buying natural gas produced at a local farm. The school said a new anaerobic digester will produce renewable natural gas that will travel by pipeline from a Salisbury farm to the college’s main power plant. Middlebury said it will purchase the power in an innovative partnership with Goodrich Family Farm, Vanguard Renewables of Massachusetts and Vermont Gas Systems. Vanguard will build and operate the digester at Goodrich Family Farm, and Vermont Gas Systems will transmit the natural gas by pipe. Representatives of the four partners discussed the project at a press briefing Thursday at the college. “We are constantly looking at new ways to make our energy sources more sustainable and diverse, and the digester project is a great opportunity to do that,” said David Provost, executive vice president for finance and administration at Middlebury College. “In 2016, the college reached its goal of carbon neutrality,” he said. “We want to maintain that goal and keep improving on it. The digester will enable us to further decrease our use of carbon-based fuels.” Beyond the renewable energy produced by the digester, the facility will create liquid fertilizer that will reduce the farm’s reliance on chemical fertilizers. The 2,200-acre farm with 900 milking cows will also benefit from lower energy costs, free heat, fewer greenhouse gas emissions and an annual lease payment for hosting the anaerobic digester facility, according to the announcement. Once it is built, the digester would produce the largest amount of renewable natural gas of any digester in Vermont. “The digester offers help with many of the challenges we face as farmers,” said Chase Goodrich, who is among the fourth generation of his family to operate the farm. “We want to diversify our income sources and find new ways to be environmentally friendly. Here in the Champlain Valley, we’re particularly aware of efforts to reduce phosphorus runoff into Lake Champlain.” The digester project is currently in the permitting phase.

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