Finding the most efficient use for poultry house litter has been a priority for several years.
Chicken manure has long been used as a fertilizer. While some farmers apply the litter to their own fields, others have found a source of brokering their litter through galitter.org, a Web site operated by the Georgia Poultry Federation that matches growers who have litter to those who wish to acquire it.
A Roswell company has found yet another potential use for the waste from poultry houses.
Roswell-based rem Engineering Inc. has designed and patented a system that will convert poultry waste into usable energy. The system was displayed as a part of an environmentally friendly exhibit at the International Poultry Expo which concluded Friday in Atlanta.
"The litter is placed in a gasification chamber, it is gasified and the gases are sent into a boiler," said Doug Latulippe of rem Engineering. "The boiler can produce steam which can generate electricity or the steam can be used for the processing needs of a feed mill, rendering plant or poultry processing plant."
In the gasification chamber, the poultry litter is burned and about 17 percent of the original product winds up as ash, which can be applied to fields as fertilizer.
Latulippe said the system can pay for itself in three to four years.
The system requires no outside fuel sources, aside from wood used to generate the fire.
"The unit itself stays hot and it is self-sustaining for the whole combustion process," he said.
The company says using poultry litter, as opposed to traditional fossil fuels, for energy generation has the potential to reduce greenhouse gasses by more than 250,000 tons per year.
But not everyone is buying the idea of the system.
Tommy Bagwell, chief executive of American Proteins, a rendering company which processes waste from poultry processing, is skeptical of the idea of turning litter into energy.
"Every system like this in the past only made sense if you got government subsidies or in the Delmarva peninsula, where they have an excess of naturally occurring phosphorus in the ground," Bagwell said.
The Delmarva peninsula is the poultry producing region where the states of Delaware, Maryland and Virginia converge.
"For waste to energy programs, you can chip up waste trees and burn the wood. It’s simpler and less messy than burning chicken manure,"
Latulippe believes the system could work in a multi-user setting, such as at a feed mill, or processing plant where multiple growers would have their litter brought to the site for gasification.
The first system, which is mounted on an over-the-road trailer, has been sold to Illinois State University. The university plans to use the system for a major research project.