Maryland is seeking proposals for the purchase of electricity generated from animal waste like poultry litter and livestock manure, the governor’s office announced on Thursday.
Eligible energy suppliers must have a capacity of up to 10 megawatts, connect directly to the grid and be able to begin providing power to the state by Dec. 31, 2015.
While the idea of poo-derived power may sound unconventional, Maryland isn’t the only state that’s giving it a second look. Through a pilot case study conducted by its Cow Power program, the state of Vermont produced 12 million kilowatt hours of electricity per year by converting manure from six dairy farms.
Gov. Martin O’Malley said he hopes Maryland’s animal waste initiative – called the Clean Bay Power project – will help the state meet alternative energy goals and reduce its contribution to agricultural runoff in the Chesapeake Bay.
The state requires that all electricity suppliers purchase 20 percent of their power from alternative energy sources by 2022, and mounting concerns about the health of the Chesapeake have drawn local attention.
Although most farms reuse animal waste as fertilizer, this process can cause runoff of nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus, which then enter the Chesapeake Bay. Nutrients may not sound harmful, but their presence can cause algae blooms that deplete oxygen in the bay, according to the North Carolina State University Waterway Quality Group.
In addition to decreasing pollution and expanding alternative energy programs, the new power source has the potential to create hundreds of new green jobs, the state said.
“Maryland is leading the nation’s efforts in clean energy and sustainability, and our state’s growing ‘green’ jobs sector is vital to our ability to create jobs and compete globally in the new economy,” Gov. O’Malley said.
The state is accepting bids from energy suppliers until Nov. 30. State government has not yet set a date for its final decision.