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From Waste to Wattage
By Monica Heger

(Business 2.0) – Vermont's cows are getting into the power business. Thanks to a partnership with a local dairy, Central Vermont Public Service is pioneering a new model in which customers buy manure-powered electricity from farms. Digesters at the dairy convert animal waste into methane using an airtight tank that keeps odor contained. Because methane is 23 times more harmful than carbon dioxide, environmentalists say burning the gas as fuel is better than letting it into the atmosphere.

It costs a farm about $1.2 million to install a digester and plug into the grid, says CVPS public affairs director Steve Costello, but the utility charges customers an extra 4 cents per kilowatt-hour for methane, and that money is used to reimburse the farm. So far, about 2,500 CVPS customers have opted to use cow power in their homes. "It makes the farms more viable," Costello says, "and it keeps Vermont looking like Vermont."