RICHFORD, Vt. -- CVPS Cow Power(TM) is extending its reach, giving a farm from outside Central Vermont Public Service's territory the opportunity to be part of the nation's first farm-to-customer renewable energy choice program.

Vermont's largest utility today announced an agreement with a Richford farm served by Vermont's largest member-owned electric utility, Vermont Electric Cooperative (VEC), to be the first non-CV farm under contract with the CVPS Cow Power program.

CVPS Cow Power is the nation's first manure-based renewable energy program linking consumers and farmers. CVPS customers can choose to receive all, half or a quarter of their electrical energy through Cow Power.

Customers pay a premium of 4 cents per kilowatt hour for CVPS Cow Power, which goes to participating farm-producers, to purchase renewable energy credits when enough farm energy isn't available, or to the CVPS Renewable Development Fund. The fund provides grants to farm owners to develop on-farm generation.

"Through this agreement with Berkshire Cow Power LLC, we are expanding the clean, renewable energy produced in Vermont from cow manure and extending the value of our program across utility service territories," CVPS President Bob Young said. "We hope this will be the first of many outside farms to join farms within our service territory as we continue to develop this market, which is producing wonderful environmental benefits and helping Vermont farmers at a time of severe financial hardship."

The contract was reached through the cooperation of VEC and its farm member, Berkshire Cow Power LLC. VEC Chief Executive Officer David Hallquist said all of VEC's members and the environment benefit from this joint arrangement. Under separate contracts, VEC will purchase the farm's electrical output and CVPS will purchase the renewable energy credits and related benefits associated with the farm-based generation on behalf of customers. CVPS Cow Power agreed to purchase credits and all associated renewable attributes for 4 cents per kilowatt-hour.

"Without CVPS's support, we could not have become a cow power producer," said Mark St. Pierre, owner of Pleasant Valley Farm, which created Berkshire Cow Power LLC as a separate holding company. "This provides solid financial benefits while improving our manure management, local air quality and the environment at large."

As a VEC member, the farm will receive the market price for the energy sold to VEC. Since it will come from a known renewable source and at the same price as the market, both VEC's members and the environment will benefit.

To create Cow Power, manure and other farm waste are held in a sealed concrete tank at the same temperature as a cow's stomach, 101 degrees. Bacteria digest the volatile components, creating methane and killing pathogens and weed seeds. The methane, a greenhouse gas which is roughly 20 times more effective than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere, fuels an engine/generator.

Berkshire Cow Power is expected to produce 3 million kilowatt-hours per year. The reduced methane emissions from the farm are expected to have an environmental impact equivalent to removing 4,695 tons of CO2 from the air annually. That's akin to removing 1,015 cars from the highway.

Blue Spruce Farm in Bridport was the first CVPS Cow Power producer, starting in 2005. Besides Berkshire Cow Power, four farms in CVPS's service territory are in the process of developing generators and are expected on-line in 2007.

SOURCE: Central Vermont Public Service via Business Wire.