The Delta company

Delta opened the world’s largest biomass power plant in the Netherlands that runs on chicken manure, in September 2008 . The plant recycles one-third of the country’s total 1.2 million tons of poultry waste produced each year, or 440,000 tons, into useable energy. Roughly 270 million kilowatt-hours of sustainable electricity can be generated to provide power for 90,000 households each year. For Dutch poultry producers sending their waste to the power plant provides an environmentally safer and less expensive way to get manure off their farms.

Environmental issues

The Netherlands are a highly productive group of countries about twice the size of New Jersey. Agriculture is one of their most important industries but in a country of 15 million people, there are 110 million livestock animals in the Netherlands at a given time, including 85 million chickens, 14 million pigs and 3 million cows. And since chickens and pigs reproduce several times a year, the total livestock turnover in the Netherlands is about 450 million per year. Not surprisingly, it’s too much manure for such a small country to process.

The animals produce about 80 to 100 million metric tons of manure per year, about two times the amount of fertilizer the soil needs to produce a good harvest of crops. Some of it gets shipped to other countries to be processed, but a lot of the manure gets ploughed into the soil anyway. Cow and pig manure are safer for the environment, but chicken manure releases CO2 and  methane, a very strong greenhouse gas. When chicken manure is used as an alternative energy source, the methane isn’t released into the environment.

Biomass as a renewable energy source

Most fuels used for electricity production,  coal, oil and natural gas, are non-renewable resources. Once they are used to produce electricity, they are gone forever. Renewable energy – wind, solar, hydropower, and biomass energy – comes directly or indirectly from solar energy. When these power sources are managed correctly, they can provide energy indefinitely.

Biomass is material from living, or recently living organisms, both plants and animals. There are five basic categories of material: wood from wood products and/or processing; high yield crops grown for energy applications; agricultural residues from harvesting or processing like manure or silage; food waste from food and drink preparation and post-consumer waste; and industrial waste from manufacturing processes.