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GE Energy has revealed that an increasing number of farmers in Europe and North America are using its Jenbacher engines to generate onsite power from biogas.

This biogas is being created from converted animal waste and other agricultural organic materials.

The international community is seeking to expand the development of different types of renewable energy, according to the company.

In the European Union (EU), where agriculture is responsible for nine per cent of greenhouse-gas emissions, countries are being encouraged to expand the use of cogeneration technologies to reduce various industrial source points of methane-gas emissions, including agricultural operations.

The waste of 2,500 cows, 15,000 pigs or 300,000 chickens can create enough biogas to power one of GE’s Ecomagination-certified Jenbacher cogeneration units with electrical output of 500kW, which is enough energy to supply more than 900 EU homes.

Although the practice is more widely accepted in Europe, a growing number of farmers in the US and Canada are also installing similar systems to generate onsite power from the methane-rich biogas that is created from the breakdown of organic materials, including animal manure and energy crops.

By producing biogas from animal manure as a substitute for fossil fuels, any extra greenhouse-gas emissions are avoided.

Additionally, farmers benefit from the biogas generation’s end product: a high-quality, almost-odourless agricultural fertiliser that neutralises acid levels with a higher pH value.

Using this kind of fertiliser – instead of the original manure – is claimed to have a positive effect on the local water bodies.

Prady Iyyanki, chief executive officer of GE Energy’s Jenbacher gas engine business, said: ‘In the face of dwindling reserves of fossil fuels, this solution provides an attractive, renewable alternative.

‘The use of agricultural waste to produce biogas gives farms another way to reduce their operational costs and greenhouse-gas emissions.’ GE Energy’s Jenbacher gas engine business is a manufacturer of gas-fuelled reciprocating engines, packaged generator sets and cogeneration units for power generation.

The company’s gas engine technology covers an output range of 0.25MW to 4MW and can operate on a variety of gases, while offering high levels of efficiency, durability and reliability.

More than 1,100 engines in Europe are currently running on biogas, including in Germany (Europe’s leading country in this application), Austria and, most recently, for a biomass-to-energy project in Limena, northeastern Italy.

In 2008, GE’s Jenbacher equipment was installed to process agricultural waste at the Baita del Latte farm plant in Limena, Italy, to produce 1.06MW of electricity.

The project is designed to prevent the annual release of 5,000 tons of CO2 into the atmosphere.

France also is said to be positioned to develop additional alternative power generation from biogas out of agricultural waste and various energy crops.

In 2009, the French government implemented an initiative – called ‘Objectif Terres 2020’ – to encourage the production of renewable energy derived from agricultural sources.

A number of GE Energy products are certified under Ecomagination: GE’s corporate-wide initiative to bring to market technologies that will help customers to meet pressing environmental challenges.

In addition to its various cogeneration applications, GE’s Jenbacher biogas, landfill gas and coal mine methane engines previously received Ecomagination certification, underscoring the environmental and economic benefits from the utilisation of generating energy from high-methane-content waste streams, according to the company.

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