A new farm microgrid in rural North Carolina is gaining traction as a model for future rural microgrids. PowerSecure, a Southern Company subsidiary, engineered, procured and constructed the microgrid.
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Power from pig manure may sound odd. But a Lillington, N.C. microgrid is showing how its done.
In fact, the Butler Farms project is a recent recipient of POWER magazine’s Distributed Energy Award. Previous winners of the award, launched in 2019, include the Gordon Bubolz Nature Preserve in Appleton, Wisc.
Butler Farms recently doubled down on its efforts to not only cut down on odors and eliminate rainwater challenges, but also capture biogas to utilize as a renewable energy resource as caught on file in a recent report that outlines the unique N.C. hog farm microgrid.
What is the Butler Farms microgrid? It’s a sustainability-focused finishing operation, meaning young feeder pigs are brought in and fed for about 20 weeks until they are ready for market. Looking for ways to lessen the farm’s impact on neighbors and the environment, owner Tom Butler first installed the covers in 2008.
And from there, the microgrid evolution began. In 2017, Butler Farms made the decision to update its existing biogas and power generation systems into a new microgrid in partnership with North Carolina’s electric cooperatives.
According to Larson, South River EMC saw an opportunity to “expand the capabilities at Butler Farms and approached its power supplier, North Carolina Electric Membership Corp. (NCEMC), about creating a microgrid on-site.
PowerSecure, a Southern Company subsidiary, was chosen as the engineering, procurement, and construction contractor.
We never had any intentions of making a lot of money on these waste management improvements. It was genuinely a desire to do the “Green Thing”. — Tom Butler, owner, Butler Farms
In addition to to the existing equipment at Butler Farms, NCEMC placed a 250/735 kWh battery storage system and control technology, while engineers from South River EMC and NCEMC held design discussions and selected PowerSecure for the project.
Three PowerSecure engineers designed the drawings and schematics, and PowerSecure manufactured custom enclosures, and packaged and installed the individual Butler Farms microgrid components into a fully functioning battery storage system and separate controller.
“PowerSecure has demonstrated history of successfully executing microgrid projects, so we rely heavily on these experiences to ensure that we have the appropriately trained team to execute a project,” Jonathan Tugwell, application engineer at PowerSecure told Larson.
Now, the updated Butler Farms microgrid provides energy to the farm and 28 nearby homes. A methane capture process collects valuable biogas and reduces greenhouse gas emissions at the Butler Farms microgrid, while the newly optimized microgrid system incorporates renewable energy, battery storage, and emergency backup power into the grid.
Download the new report, “Distributed Energy Award Goes to Unique Hog Farm Microgrid,” which explores the details of the Butler Farms microgrid evolution and 2017 upgrade in detail.