Alternative Energy Options Weighed, Poultry Waste Ideas Offered

US - Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler wants to know how to cleanly and economically convert poultry litter into energy.
calendar icon 16 August 2013
clock icon 3 minute read

According to, after talking about the issue casually for a few years, the Democrat — who is expected to formally enter the race for governor this fall — arrived at Salisbury University on 14 August to learn about the process and challenges that accompany converting waste to energy.

"I’ve been talking about chicken litter to energy for some time now, and they used to think it was like talking about a man on the moon," Mr Gansler said. "Now, it has become part of the mainstream dialogue, which is great."

To be clear, Mr Gansler clarified poultry litter is not just manure, but the wood chips and other byproducts that result from raising chickens.

Companies such as Perdue have begun recycling poultry litter by burning it or using other ways to break it down and convert it to energy.

But how to get rid of excessive amounts of poultry waste on a larger scale — without reducing water or air quality — and making a profit still remains a large question.

Mr Gansler passed out a list of seven possible solutions which would likely have varying degrees of success.

Among the suggestions are credit multipliers for utility companies that purchase renewable energy from Chesapeake watershed farm waste, farm renewable energy credits similar to the existing solar credits that encourage power companies to install solar panels and long-term state support for chicken-litter-to-energy projects on Delmarva.

There are, of course, questions and concerns about how burning litter would impact air quality, especially when done on a large scale. Mr Gansler did not mention if he would like to see environmental studies to accompany an expansion of converting chicken litter into energy.

How an expansion might impact Lower Shore farmers would also need to be researched. Now, many farmers use it as manure depending on the phosphorus levels in their soil and what they are trying to grow.

If large amounts would be bought by power plants that might provide some extra money to poultry farmers, but crop farmers might see the price of poultry manure go up or have to purchase commercial fertilizer.

That is exactly why author and environmentalist Tom Horton said implementing a system that converts poultry litter to energy should not happen overnight.

"It needs to be phased in, of course, or it would be a disaster for a lot of farmers," he said.

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