Cold weather isn’t an obstacle to anaerobic digesters in Manitoba

Manitoba’s first anaerobic digester will be completed this fall and experts 
say it will prove that our cold winters are no problem

Manitoba’s challenging climate won’t leave producers out in the cold when it comes to anaerobic digesters, says a University of Manitoba researcher.

“If you insulate it properly and it’s heated, there shouldn’t be any obstacles to having this technology,” PhD candidate Elsie Jordaan said during a presentation sponsored by the National Centre for Livestock and the Environment.

Just how much insulation is needed is still being debated, but Alberta and Saskatchewan have anaerobic digesters in operation despite similar climatic challenges, said Jordaan.

Manitoba Hydro is working with Natural Resources Canada and the University of Manitoba to develop and install a comprehensive anaerobic digester system at Sweetridge Farms near Winkler.

The operators of the large dairy farm are looking to improve the quality of the manure, as well as generate animal bedding through the process, said Jordaan. Fifty kilowatts of electricity and heat will also be generated from the manure on site.

The project, due to be completed this fall, has encountered some bumps along the way, as have the Ontario-based company that has undertaken the project. But those setbacks haven’t been climate related.

“I think a lot of it has just been that the company’s learning curve for doing this kind of project in Manitoba has been very steep,” said Jordan Langner, a renewable energy engineer with Manitoba Hydro.

The Sweetridge project will not only prove anaerobic digesters are feasible in Manitoba, but make it easier for future digester projects to get off the ground, said Langner.

“There’s a lot of things about Manitoba that make our situation different, climate is one, but also our manure management regulations are something that is unique here,” he said.

Aside from technology, Jordaan said costs associated with building digesters may also be a deterrent for some people.

The digester near Winkler will cost about $750,000 to build, but Langner said some of the research aspects of the project have increased construction costs.

About the author

Reporter

Shannon VanRaes is a journalist and photojournalist at the Manitoba Co-operator. She also writes a weekly urban affairs column for Metro Winnipeg, and has previously reported for the Winnipeg Sun, Outwords Magazine and the Portage Daily Graphic.

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