Pig farmer wins national award for innovative biogas scheme
Steve Lepper, Managing Director of Lepper Trust, receives the SME Award
Taranaki pig farmer Steve Lepper has found an original source of electricity - his own pigs.
Steve's farm, the Lepper Trust, was named winner in the Smartpower Small-Medium Business category in the 2010 EECA Awards for an ingenious project that captures gas from the farm's effluent and uses it to produce electricity.
The system consists of a purpose-built effluent pond that can hold 7000 m³ of waste, with a cover that stores the biogas. This gas is piped to a combined heat and power (CHP) unit which processes it to make electricity, and this electricity is then used to power the piggery.
A ‘heat recovery' system is also being installed which will use waste heat to heat water, some of which will replace electric heating for young pigs.
In its first month, the system produced 133m³ of gas per day, and daily electricity use in the piggery dropped by 28%. When fully commissioned, the system is expected to save the farm more than $65,000 a year in electricity costs.
The Lepper biogas project was supported by New Zealand Pork, which itself won a Commendation in the Innovation category for its work researching, and trialling biogas on pig farms. To date, it's helped set up three systems on North Island farms, with more in the pipeline.
As well as cutting the farm's running costs by providing ‘free' electricity, the system eliminates the issue of dealing with waste. There are no disposal costs; the smell (which can be a sore point for neighbours) is removed; and thanks to the anaerobic digestion that happens in the pond, the result at the end of the process is a nutrient-rich - and odour free - fertiliser for the adjacent family farm.
"Dealing with waste and its environmental impact is a major issue across our agricultural sector - not just pig farming. This takes the costly problem of disposal and turns it around to create a business benefit - not just neutralising the problem, but using it in a cunning way to reduce on-farm costs," said EECA Chief Executive Mike Underhill.
"Biogas systems like this could work just as easily on other pig farms, but I hope it inspires other industries to look twice at their waste and see an opportunity. There are already pilots using biogas on dairy farms, for example.
"This also helps cut production costs in an industry where margins are extremely tight and there's intense competition from overseas. New Zealand Pork has really gotten behind the industry with its support for this project and others like it. This is a far-sighted strategy which has the potential to revolutionise New Zealand pig farming."
The title of Supreme Winner in the 2010 EECA Awards went to Downer NZ. It won the Large Business category for its comprehensive programme to tackle energy use across the company, and it won the Innovation category for its fuel efficiency programme combining driver behaviour change with technology such as GPS and in-cab cameras.
The EECA Awards celebrate organisations and individuals who have demonstrated excellence and innovation in energy efficiency or renewable energy. This year, nearly 100 entries were received across the nine categories. Entrants ranged from small businesses to large corporates to outstanding invididuals, spanning public and private sectors and community-based organisations.