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Farm-Based EV Charging Stations
As demand increases for Electric Vehicle (EV) charging stations in the U.S., farmers may offer a unique power source in the future - animal and crop waste. Many dairy farms already create power with on-farm anaerobic digesters. A new research project at Michigan State University hopes to adapt the technology to create EV charging stations in rural areas.
“We view farms as ideal locations for charging stations,” says Wei Liao, director of MSU’s Anaerobic Digestion Research and Education Center. “We intend to group farms and transfer power to central locations near the highway.”
The initial research is with dairy farms because it’s Michigan’s leading agricultural commodity, with about 90 percent small and medium-sized operations of less than 1,000 cows.
To demonstrate the process, researchers built a mobile renewable EV charging station with an anaerobic digester and external combustion engine. They also built an electric tractor to run off the power.
The research has just begun, Liao says. There are many challenges to making developing smart off-grid charging systems economically feasible. But there’s also plenty of interest from farmers and rural residents interested in lower kW/hour rates. It would also benefit businesses that work in rural areas such as milk haulers.
And there’s opportunity. The same technology used to create power from dairy cattle waste can be applied to other supply lines.
“Up north, this system can be used for organic waste and restaurant waste,” Liao cited as examples.
He adds that another benefit is that using waste to produce electric power reduces emissions from vehicles and helps dairy farms achieve carbon neutrality.
MSU has already demonstrated the benefits of anaerobic digestion, with its south campus 450,000-gal. digester in operation since 2013. In 2022, it produced 2.8 million kWh of electricity to power itself and 10 buildings on the south campus, using 12,500 tons of manure from the MSU dairy farm and 15,000 tons of food waste from MSU’s cafeterias and the greater Lansing area.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Wei Liao, Michigan State University, (liaow@msu.edu).

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2023 - Volume #47, Issue #6