Utility, dairy to make electricity from manure

For the first time, dairy cows are signed up to generate power for the Modesto Irrigation District.

The district board voted 5-0 Tuesday for a power-purchase agreement with Fiscalini Cheese Co. It has installed a system that extracts methane from cattle manure and burns the gas to make electricity.

The power will be sold to the MID for about 10 cents per kilowatt-hour, said John Fiscalini, owner of the Kiernan Avenue company, when reached after the meeting.

MID officials had declined to disclose the price. General Manager Allen Short said doing so would put the district at a disadvantage in negotiations with other dairy producers planning these systems.

Tim O'Laughlin, the district's Chico-based attorney, said the figure is a "trade secret."

MID officials did say the Fiscalini price, although more than conventional energy sources, was less than several other renewable options.

The roughly $3 million system is expected to start feeding power to the MID by January. It will meet an estimated 0.2 percent of the district's demand, said Greg Salyer, manager of resource planning and development.

But he said the system will help reach the goal of producing 20 percent of electricity from renewable sources by 2017.

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