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Horse manure gains interest on Morrisville State College campus

Professors, students research converting stable waste into energy
MORRISVILLE, N.Y.—Horse manure is gaining attention on the Morrisville State College campus—and it’s not for its common use as a fertilizer. The stable waste is instead being considered as a source of energy.

Ben Ballard, assistant professor of renewable energy and director of the college’s Renewable Energy Training Center (RETC), along with students in the college’s renewable energy programs, are studying the viability of converting the tons of stable waste produced at the college’s equine facilities weekly into an alternative energy source.

The study is part of a multi-million dollar grant, Distributed On-Farm Bioenergy, Biofuels & Biochemicals (FarmBio3), awarded by the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).

Thirteen institutions are working on the project being led by the USDA Agricultural Research Service’s Eastern Regional Research Center, including Morrisville State College, which received $200,000 to coordinate the feedstock portion and work on the logistics and processing of agricultural residues (equine manure and bedding material).

According to Ballard, the three-year research project specifically involves studying on-farm production of liquid biofuels from thermal conversion (pyrolysis) of biomass which includes switchgrass, agricultural wastes (equine manure and stall bedding) and low-grade wood from forest operations.

Additional studies will also shine light on the feasibility of using horse manure to power a new biomass gasifier (BioMax), a cogeneration system (heat and power) which was installed adjacent to the Commons I residence hall this past December through the Morrisville Auxiliary Corporation (MAC). The BioMax system is a “green” alternative to conventional fossil fuel systems, which reduces users’ dependence on high cost, non-renewable fossil fuels such as diesel fuel, natural gas and propane.

The BioMax system, which gasifies wood chips or other biomass, to generate heat and electrical power, was designed and installed by Community Power Corporation (CPC) of Colorado. The MSC BioMax is in the commissioning stage, and when it is fully operational, it will convert the gas it produces into energy which will provide electricity and heat to two residence hall buildings.

Ballard and his students hope to come up with a solution to make equine manure and bedding as fuel in the form of briquettes, which could replace wood chips and also be used in future BioMax units on campus. Morrisville’s is the first CPC BioMax system on the East Coast.

So far, Ballard and students in his Biomass Energy Resources class have been collecting the manure/stall bedding from different campus equine facilities and compressing it through a grinder.

“We’re sampling and determining the moisture content which affects how it will be processed into fuel for pyrolysis or gasification,” Ballard said. Data they collect will be used in the USDA FarmBio3 project.

On top of research through the USDA grant and the new BioMax gasifier, Morrisville State College is also taking other strides in its renewable efforts.

The college was awarded a SUNY Sustainability Grant ($7,500) which will pave the way for the campus to expand its biodiesel production operations.

The project, Establishment of a Campus-Wide Biodiesel Cooperative and Addition of Methanol Recovery to Existing Campus Biodiesel Production Facilities, will establish a Morrisville Biodiesel Cooperative (MBC) and new methanol recovery, storage, and handling systems.

According to Ballard, these changes will increase the amount and sustainability of current on-campus biodiesel production. The MBC will also provide campus and community members with the opportunity to use a more sustainable fuel than petroleum-based fuel.

The current biodiesel production facility, located at the college’s Aquaculture Center, includes a 50-gallon batch biodiesel processor, a dry wash system, feedstock storage tanks, temporary biofuel storage tanks, associated storage cabinets for corrosives, flammables, and PPE, and spill containment.

Campus sustainability efforts are providing MSC students with experience working on lab models in addition to full-scale systems in real-world situations, while offering research opportunities in areas that include food production, biofuel crops, renewable energy economics, biomass gasification and solar energy production.

A solar/wind lab in Shannon Hall provides students with hands-on experience with the electrical components for both wind and solar PV systems. Additionally, a 10kW wind turbine at the college’s dairy complex is used as a real-world laboratory for students in agricultural science, agricultural engineering and renewable resources degree programs, while reducing energy costs at the complex by an average of $600/year.

Morrisville’s “green” efforts also made headlines this year when the college became involved with Solarize Madison, a volume purchasing solar initiative in New York state.

The college offers an Associate in Applied Science degree in Renewable Energy Technology and a Bachelor of Technology degree in Technology Management (renewable energy option). A new Bachelor of Technology degree in Renewable Energy is awaiting final approval from the State Department of Education.

Morrisville State College sets the world in motion for students. Curriculums are enriched with applied learning and pave the way for opportunity at both the Morrisville and Norwich campuses. An action-oriented, interactive learning lab, the college is a national leader in technology. Lauded for its exemplary, innovative and effective community service programs, the college was named to the 2012 President’s Higher Community Service Honor Roll. Visit www.morrisville.edu to experience, Morrisville in motion.


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