FAIRPLAIN TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — An effort to turn manure into renewable natural gas is coming to seven farms in Michigan.

The farms, most of which are in West Michigan, are building anaerobic digesters that turn animal waste into fuel, according to Brightmark, the water solutions company behind the project. The fuel can be used to power vehicles and heat homes.

Farmers are working Chevron to make the effort a reality. They celebrated the project’s launch at Meadow Rock Dairy near Greenville on Wednesday morning.

The technology has been around for a while, but with more federal incentives for renewable energy projects, companies are bringing it right here to West Michigan.

“It’s a real win-win that we’re celebrating today,” Brightmark CEO Bob Powell said.

When manure from cattle breaks down, it produces biogas.

“If we didn’t employ that technology, we would end up with the methane that manure creates going into the atmosphere, which is a very potent greenhouse gas,” Powell told News 8.

Instead of letting it go into the atmosphere, workers put the manure in the anerobic digester. The manure stays in there for about three weeks and then turns into methane. From there, it’s upgraded into renewable natural gas and put into existing gas pipelines. Brightmark calls it a “local supply of fuel distinct from foreign fuel production.” The remaining product not used for renewable energy is also sent back to the farm to be used as fertilizer or animal bedding.

“It’s great for sustainability and the environment,” Powell said. “It’s economically an investment in the community with our farmers.”

Powell said once the projects are up and running, they will reduce more than 135,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent each year.

“That would be the equivalent of planting about 180,000 acres a year of trees, so a much cleaner answer for the environment,” Powell said.

The company said it takes complete responsibility for operating the project.

“So farmers can focus on what they do best — running their farm,” Brightmark said.

The income from the renewable energy being sold will be divided between Brightmark, Chevron and the farms, Brightmark said. The company would not elaborate how much specific funding farms would contribute or receive from the project, citing “legalities.”

“We work together while constructing these digesters on their land,” the company stated. “Once constructed, the farmers receive an ongoing revenue stream related to the renewable products being produced.”

Brightmark also emphasized the project would help invest in local communities.

“The impact on the local economy is twofold: once the digesters are complete, Brightmark and the farmers will add a total of 20 onsite jobs,” the company wrote. “Additionally, these projects represent an investment in the farms, putting considerable dollars back into the pockets of farmers to keep operations running smoothly.”

This is one of dozens of Brightmark projects working with 40 farms nationwide, all of which have started in the last few years.

Brightmark said the anaerobic digesters will be at the following Michigan farms:

  • Meadow Rock Dairy, Greenville
  • Red Arrow Dairy Farm, Hartford
  • SunRyz Dairy Farm, Morenci
  • Willow Point Dairy Farm, Orleans
  • Apple Gate Farm, Ravenna
  • River Ridge Farm, Coopersville
  • Ottawa Farms, Coopersville