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Maine’s largest dairy farm will soon have the state's first natural gas digester, fueled by manure

Murray Carpenter
Maine Public
The ceremonial groundbreaking in Clinton, Maine, with the digester visible under construction in the background.

Maine’s largest dairy farm will soon have Maine’s first natural gas digester that is fueled solely by cow manure.

In a ceremonial groundbreaking at Flood Brothers Farm in Clinton Wednesday, representatives of Summit Utilities, a natural gas company, said the digester will receive manure from a half dozen dairy farms in central Maine.

The manure will be heated to produce biogas, which will be cleaned and pumped into Summit’s pipelines. By reducing methane emissions from manure and producing natural gas, Summit says it would have the greenhouse gas benefits of taking 6,500 cars off the road.

Angus King, the son of the U.S. Senator from Maine, is the president of Peaks Renewables, the Summit subsidiary that is developing the project.

Heifer at Flood farm.jpg
Murray Carpenter
Maine Public
A heifer at the Flood Brothers Farm in Clinton. Milking 1,600 cows, it is the state's largest dairy farm.

"We're taking a bad thing — emissions — and we're turning it into a good thing: energy," King says. "The cows get to keep doing what they do, taking grass and turning it into the milk that we all love. And now they've added a second trick to their repertoire."

Dan Burgess, director of the Maine Governor' Energy Office, says this facility and others like it are an important step in achieving Maine’s climate action goals:

"We have requirements to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 45% by 1990 levels by 2030 and 80% by 2050," Burgess says. "So projects like this that are utilizing waste which would otherwise be methane and turning it into useful energy can be helpful in helping us meet those targets."

In September, Sen. Susan Collins and Reps. Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden announced $5 million in Department of Energy funding for the digester. Project backers say the digester should be up and running by early 2023.

Murray Carpenter is Maine Public’s climate reporter, covering climate change and other environmental news.