By Jason McLure
LITTLETON, New Hampshire (Reuters) - Cow manure will be used to power skiers to the top of a Vermont resort this winter as part of a growing effort to generate electricity from a byproduct of the state's iconic dairy farms.
Killington, one of the largest ski resorts in New England, will use 300,000 kilowatt hours of electricity made from manure generated on 13 farms this year to run its K-1 Express Gondola to the top of the resort's namesake 4,241-foot peak, a spokeswoman for the resort said on Thursday.
The manure-generated electricity is distributed through a renewable energy program at Green Mountain Power, the state's largest utility. Begun in 2004 by Central Vermont Public Service, which was acquired by Green Mountain Power's parent company this year, the "cow power" program now generates five megawatts using manure from 10,000 of the state's 270,000 cattle.
Under the process, manure collected from barn floors during the day is mixed with wash water from milking equipment. Bacteria in an anaerobic digester then process the manure slurry into methane gas, which is burned to generate electricity. The program currently consumes 300,000 gallons of manure per day.
"We're always looking at ways to be environmentally efficient and we're always looking forward to ways to help farmers," said Sarah Thorson, a spokeswoman for the ski resort.
Vermont power customers including Long Trail Brewing Company, Middlebury College and Woodchuck Hard Cider pay a premium of $.04 per kilowatt hour to offset additional costs of the renewable energy scheme.
Killington is the first ski resort in Vermont to use manure power.
(Editing by Paul Thomasch and Steve Orlofsky)