A group of Michigan livestock producers representing several species has joined together to research and develop a manure-incineration plant that would generate electricity, steam and fertilizer from the manure of farms in the region. Known as West Michigan Co-Gen, the group has already received state and county grants to finance three-quarters of a $60,000 feasibility study — private funds will pay for the rest of the project’s cost.

Preliminary guesstimates suggest such a biomass energy facility could sustain the electrical needs for up to 1,500 homes annually. However, total plant capacity has yet to be determined.

Supporters say such a project would help area producers proactively deal with community hot-buttons like manure odors, runoff and water quality, as well as tighter state and federal environmental regulations. In addition, it would decrease producer dependence on the practice of field-spreading manure that often fuels these issues.

In addition to electricity production, the group is exploring alliance options with other area ag-based entities to generate income from plant byproducts.

The feasibility study should be completed by mid-summer. And, if all goes smoothly, the plant could be up and running as soon as the end of next year.

The EagleHerald, Associated Press