Alpaca Farm Runs on Cow Power

Alpaca Farm Runs on Cow Power

New England's largest alpaca farm is teaming up with CVPS Cow Power, Vermont’s largest voluntary renewable energy program.

"We’re putting CVPS Cow Power to work at Cas-Cad-Nac Farm," said co-owner Ian Lutz, who with his wife Jennifer runs the 250-head alpaca farm in central Vermont. “We’re strong supporters of sustainable, Vermont-scale agriculture, so it’s a natural decision for us to become Cow Power customers.”

CVPS Cow Power is the nation’s only direct farm-to-consumer renewable energy program, creating a market for farmers who want to process cow manure and other farm waste to generate electricity. More than 2,500 CVPS customers have enrolled in the program, which provides farms with new manure management opportunities, environmental benefits and income.

With annual electric use of about 55,000 kilowatt-hours, Cas-Cad-Nac Farm is now the biggest single customer enrolled in CVPS Cow Power. The farm plans to cross-market its alpacas with CVPS Cow Power, using its newsletter, Website, and farm signage to promote the program.

“Our customers tend to be very supportive of the farm lifestyle we enjoy, so Cow Power is the perfect fit for Cas-Cad-Nac Farm,” Jennifer Lutz said. “No one else in the country is doing anything like this for dairy farmers.”

Enrolling Cas-Cad-Nac Farm in CVPS Cow Power also fits CVPS’s original concept for the renewable energy choice.

“From the beginning we’ve wanted to partner with customers who wanted to go beyond just enrolling, who wanted to trumpet their enrollment,” CVPS President Bob Young said. “That’s good for the customers, good for farms, and good for the program.”

CVPS Cow Power was born of a desire to give electric customers a 100% renewable energy choice. CVPS did extensive customer surveying to gauge demand for a renewable choice, and support for farm-based generation in particular. Based on that data, the company worked with state regulators, the Agency of Agriculture and others to develop the CVPS Cow Power concept, which allows customers to get all, half or a quarter of their electrical energy through Cow Power.

Customers pay a premium of 4 cents per kilowatt hour for CVPS Cow Power, which goes to participating farm-producers, to purchase renewable energy credits when enough farm energy isn’t available, or to the CVPS Renewable Development Fund. The fund provides grants to farm owners to develop on-farm generation. Farm-producers are also paid 95% of the market price for the energy sold to CVPS.

The generation concept is simple. Manure is held in a sealed concrete tank at the same temperature as a cow’s stomach, 101 degrees. Bacteria digest the volatile components, creating methane and killing pathogens and weed seeds. The methane fuels an engine/generator, and the energy is put onto CVPS’s power lines for delivery to customers. The processed farm waste can be separated into solids and liquid. The solids can be dried and used as cow bedding or composted for home and garden use, while the liquid, which is virtually odorless, can be spread as fertilizer on the farm as it has been for hundreds of years.

“Cow Power makes perfect sense for Vermont, and Cas-Cad-Nac Farm,” Ian Lutz said. “We want to encourage our customers and neighbors to join us in enrolling and supporting farming and the environment.”