SOURCE: Central Vermont Public Service

Central Vermont Public Service

February 27, 2009 14:40 ET

Sixth Family Farm Joins CVPS Cow Power™

BAKERSFIELD, VT--(Marketwire - February 27, 2009) - A family farm that employs more than 20 relatives has become the sixth farm in Vermont to join the CVPS (NYSE: CV) Cow Power™ family.

Gervais Family Farm Inc., a family owned and operated dairy farm in Bakersfield, has begun generating electricity from cow manure and signed on as the newest CVPS Cow Power™ producer.

"We're thrilled to welcome the Gervais family to the Cow Power family," CVPS President Bob Young said. "Together with farm owners, we're making a real contribution to Vermont's environment, the dairy industry and renewable energy."

Robert and Gisele Gervais originally purchased their farm in 1960, starting with 200 acres and 35 milking cows. Over the years, the farm has grown considerably along with the family. Robert and Gisele have 15 children, and today the farm includes more than 2,500 acres and 1,900 cows, heifers and calves. The family milks about 950 Holsteins three times a day, raises all of their replacement heifers, and does their own crop and feed management. The farm is now owned by Robert and Gisele Gervais and sons Charles Sr., Larry, Paul and Clement.

Clement Gervais, who took the lead on developing the Cow Power project, said the whole family decided together to join other Vermont farm pioneers in generating electricity from manure.

"One of our key reasons was to do something about the odor of the manure, but this also improves manure management and provides an alternative bedding source for our cows," he said. "The cost of bedding is a big thing. We've been using two and a half tractor trailer loads of sawdust a week at $2,400 per load, and we hope to replace 85 to 90 percent of that through manure solids separation. The manure, after digestion, is squeezed through rollers and the solids, low in bacteria, make good bedding. There is not much food left in the solids for bacteria to grow; it has been eaten up by the methane-forming 'bugs.' The liquids flow back to the lagoon ready for use as fertilizer. That's a big economic benefit."

The Cow Power process is simple: manure and other agricultural waste are 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, which is roughly 20 times more harmful than carbon dioxide in trapping heat in the atmosphere, fuels an engine/generator. The process kills almost all manure odors, and provides a peat-moss-like material for bedding animals.

CVPS customers can choose to receive all, half or a quarter of their electrical energy through Cow Power, and pay a premium of 4 cents per kilowatt hour. It 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. The CVPS Renewable Development Fund provided the Gervais Family farm a grant of $75,000 to help underwrite start-up costs. The farm also received grants from the Vermont Clean Energy Development Fund and the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets.

"We continue to be very pleased to see the development of the Cow Power program," said David O'Brien, commissioner of the Department of Public Service, which runs the Clean Energy Development Fund. "Each one of these Vermont farms should be commended for their willingness to pursue both the development of their own energy and a means to clean up the environment around them. We salute the Gervais family for making this project a reality. Vermont consumers continue to support these projects."

"The Gervais families are excellent farmers who understand the need to invest in new technologies that reduce costs and increase revenue in an extremely volatile dairy economy," said Deputy Agriculture Commissioner David Lane. "They also understand the environmental concerns and renewable energy attributes. The project is good for the farm, for Vermont and for the Cow Power program. We will continue to work with farmers, utilities and programs such as Cow Power to bring these projects to fruition. "

The farm is in the Enosburg Electric service territory, which worked with CVPS and the Gervais family to make the project a reality. CVPS will purchase the renewable energy credits and related environmental attributes associated with the farm-based generation for 4 cents per kilowatt-hour, and Enosburg will purchase the energy.

"We're very excited for the Gervais family that they've gotten their project on line, and we were really pleased to be able to make things work on our end," Enosburg Electric Superintendent Greg Clark said.

The project is expected to produce about 780,000 kilowatt-hours annually.

"We hope to supply 4 to 5 percent of our load with Cow Power within 10 years," Young said. "That sounds ambitious, but through customer support, we have created an opportunity for farm owners that didn't exist just five years ago. Given today's economic uncertainty and poor prices paid for milk, Cow Power can play a pivotal role in building and maintaining economic viability for Vermont farms."

CVPS Cow Power™ has been repeatedly honored since its creation in 2004. The program won the Vermont Governor's Award for Environmental Excellence in 2005-2006 and the Finalist's Commendation in the 2007 Edison Electric Institute's annual Edison Award competition, named for Thomas Edison. In 2008, "Power Magazine" named CVPS Cow Power™ one of five "Top Plants" worldwide. For more information, visit www.cvps.com/cowpower.

Contact Information

  • Contacts:
    Steve Costello
    CVPS
    (802) 747-5427

    Clement Gervais
    Gervais family Farm
    (802) 782-3841