Farmers across the nation utilize some of most advanced technologies in the world to produce more with less resources, and while lessening environmental impact. One technology is anaerobic digestion, which is the controlled breakdown of organic matter to produce a nutrient-rich organic byproduct and a combustible biogas that can be used by a cogeneration engine to produce usable heat and electricity, helping improve sustainability and the bottom line. Wisconsin leads the industry in the number of on-farm anaerobic digesters, and an example of that leadership can be found at Norm-E-Lane Farm, Inc. in Chili, Wisconsin.
Norm-E-Lane is a progressive, large scale, third-generation family-owned dairy farm first established in 1946 by Norman and Elaine Meissner. Named after its two founders and “The Lane,” a farming term for the path cows take from barn to pasture, the farm began with just 80 acres of land, 18 cows and a team of horses. Norm and Elaine raised two daughters and four sons, all of whom contributed to the early success of the farm. Today, the dairy farm is owned and operated by Jerrold, one of their sons, and his son Joshua.
Norm-E-Lane has grown significantly. Today, 34 full-time employees cultivate forage crops on 5,000 acres of land, and care for and manage 2,400 cows and 2,300 head of dairy replacement heifers. Over the years, the farm’s growth has required facility updates to keep the operation efficient and profitable. In 2007, a new state-ofthe- art facility was built to accommodate the farm’s first anaerobic digester.
After just a few years, the number of cows on the farm and related waste volumes became too much for the digester to handle efficiently. As the years began to accrue on the anaerobic digestion system’s engine, reliability was compromised and maintenance became arduous. It was time for an upgrade.
“There’s such a great need for digesters on farms,” said Josh Meissner, co-owner of Norm-E-Lane. “But, the burden lies in owning and operating the systems, particularly maintenance management as you contend with all the other equipment you have on a farm.”
The Meissner family turned to DVO, Inc., North America’s largest provider of anaerobic digesters, to help expand its digester, replace its cogeneration engine and bring the entire system up-to-date. The goals were simple: transition all power system maintenance to a thirdparty provider and generate byproducts that could be used around the farm. To meet Norm-E-Lane’s needs, DVO recommended the Meissner family replace its ailing cogeneration engine with a Series 4000 mtu biogas combined heat and power system (CHP).
W.W.Williams, an authorized mtu gas systems distributor, in partnership with DVO, Inc. installed the Series 4000 CHP, which has delivered a 97 percent total runtime for Norm-E-Lane with an output of 1,169 kWe.