NC again delays pig and poultry waste-to-energy goal

North Carolina, one of the nation’s leading agricultural producers, will once again fall short on a state mandate to generate electricity from hog waste and poultry droppings.

The N.C. Utilities Commission this week approved a one-year delay – the fifth such delay since 2012 – after Duke Energy and other power producers in the state said they will not be able to meet the goal.

North Carolina is the only state in the nation that requires electric companies to generate a portion of their power from hog sludge and poultry droppings. But the technology is not well-proven or economically viable, resulting in repeated requests for delays despite sluggish progress.

To generate electricity, chicken and turkey droppings are typically dried and incinerated with wood chips or some other fuel. Swine waste is tapped as a source of methane, and the biogas is burned as an energy fuel. North Carolina has eight swine waste-to-energy facilities and five incinerators that burn poultry droppings.

In recent years Duke Energy has said that a breakthrough is inevitable at some point. Duke announced two swine waste-to-energy projects in Eastern North Carolina this year that combined will produce enough biogas to generate power for nearly 11,000 homes when these energy projects are operational.

“I think the momentum is there,” said Duke spokesman Randy Wheeless. “There are projects we’ve been announcing but they just haven’t started producing electricity.”

North Carolina has never met its goal for converting porcine offal into an energy fuel. The first-year goal for swine waste is 0.07 percent of total annual sales of each utility. Utilities are achieving only a small fraction of that goal.

The first year goal for poultry waste is 170,000 megawatt hours from all the state’s power producers combined, a minuscule portion of the 133-million megawatt hour total power sold annually in North Carolina from traditional fuel sources, such as nuclear, coal and natural gas.

Utilities have met the poultry waste goal since 2014, but only after a 2-year late start, and have not been able to increase output. Power producers are asking to keep poultry waste at the first-year goal because the resources are insufficient to advance to the next level: 700,000 megawatt hours a year.

Power producers are also asking for another delay before the first-year goal for swine waste goes into effect.

The groups that asked for a delay included Duke Energy, Dominion NC Power, GreenCo Solutions, Public Works Commission of Fayetteville, Tennessee Valley Authority, N.C. Municipal Power Agency and several electric membership cooperatives. All are coordinating efforts on the state’s animal waste mandate.

In their joint request for a delay, the groups said in August that these animal waste “resources have been challenging from the outset, due to the small numbers of existing market participants in the United States and the fact that few, if any, of those market participants have direct experience developing or operating those biomass technologies.”

John Murawski: 919-829-8932, @johnmurawski