GreenLabs Recycling Sustainability Series: Vanguard Renewables

Serena Monteiro Sep 13

The GreenLabs Recycling Sustainability Highlight is a recurring series that features Massachusetts businesses with sustainability-focused missions. Follow GreenLabs Recycling’s LinkedIn and Twitter to be notified of new posts. Please reach out to us at contact@greenlabsrecycling.com if you have ideas for other local, sustainably-minded businesses that you think should be featured.

Business and life ‘as usual’ may look quite different than it did six months ago, but even a global pandemic hasn’t changed how much food the dairy cows at farms around the state eat, nor has it affected manure-production. At five dairy farms across Massachusetts, manure is sent underground to the feeding tanks of anaerobic digesters where it is broken down, releasing methane gas that is used to power the farm. Manure will break down and release methane gas naturally without the aid of these large machines but the anaerobic digesters are designed to speed up the decomposition process, capture the gas, and burn it for energy.

One of Vanguard Renewables’ anaerobic digesters at Crescent Farm in Haverhill, MA

The anaerobic digesters are built on the farm’s land and are owned and operated by Vanguard Renewables, a farmer-first renewable energy company based in Wellesley, MA. Vanguard partners with dairy farmers across the state to build their 600,000+ gallon digesters that use the cow manure from the farm and organic food and beverage waste from businesses in the surrounding area to feed the microbes in the digester. Together, these digesters can process nearly 200,000 tons per year of combined on and off-farm organics. The microbes break down these organic products and produce methane gas that inflates the rubber roof of the digester structure. The methane gas is then extracted from the digester and converted into renewable electricity, which is used by the farm and can be uploaded to the grid providing power to not only the farm but homes and businesses as well. The farm also receives heat, a byproduct of the process, for their farm buildings.

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