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Eastern Correctional Institution in Maryland is hoping to set an example by getting some of its electricity from chicken manure.
A lot of chicken recipes call for some butter and herbs. But not this one. "Poultry litter and things like rye, barley, those are mixed together in the reactor, you add water, a little bit, you heat it up," says Doug Ferguson, with the Maryland Environmental Service. Add bacteria and simmer, and you get methane gas, which can be used to make electricity.
Once the waste-to-energy plant is complete, chicken waste will supply about a third of the energy used by the Eastern prison, according to Ferguson.
Half a billion chickens per year come out of the Delmarva peninsula, which means billions of pounds of chicken waste. That manure is a hot topic in Maryland.
"Managing that waste is always an important issue," says Ferguson. Some is used as fertilizer, but in many cases it can't be used because of its high level of phosphorous. Some is shipped out of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, because environmentalists argue the chicken waste contributes to runoff that harms the bay ecosystem
Waste-to-energy plants like this offer a solution, says Ferguson. The plant buys the manure from farmers, and he says the resulting byproduct is a better fertilizer. "We're getting multiple uses out of it to generate renewable energy, we're getting a fertilizer, we're stimulating the local economy," he says.
The plant is expected to be up and running by 2013.