BRIDGEWATER, Vt. (AP) – Long-Trail Brewing Co. on Tuesday signed a contract to become the largest commercial customer of Cow Power, a program that produces electricity from cow manure.

In its Earth Day announcement, the craft beer company said it would buy a quarter of its electricity from Central Vermont Public Service Corp.’s Cow Power, expanding on its environmentally conscious business and brewing strategies.

“We actively seek ways to reduce the impact Long Trail has on its local surroundings,” said Long Trail president Brian Walsh. “We believe CVPS Cow Power provides great environmental benefits while creating much needed opportunities for Vermont farm owners.”

In the Cow Power program, CVPS works with farmers to install special equipment that uses methane gas that’s given off by manure to generate electricity.

Customers can pay a 4-cent-per-kilowatt-hour premium for the so-called Cow Power, which helps farmers pay for the equipment.

By paying the premium, Long Trail will raise its electricity costs by about $10,000 a year, said spokesman Seth Wyman.

But officials say its worth the environmental tradeoff.

Long Trail’s Cow Power purchases will have an environmental impact equivalent to taking 106 cars off the road,” said CVPS President Bob Young in a written statement. “Thier commitment will be the equivalent to capturing the CO2 emissions from burning 65,834 gallons of gasoline annually.”

Long Trail already has an ECO Brew program, which includes recovering heat from steam, conserving water and using grease from its restaurant kitchen to power backup generators and lawn tractors.

Long Trail uses two gallons of well water – compared to the industry standard of six gallons of water – to produce one gallon of beer and treats excess water with an on-site waste water treatment plant.

It also uses recyclable material in its packaging, vegetable based ink, and is reducing its 12-pack containers to save 500,000 square feet of corrugated cardboard a year, Walsh said.

Like other craft brewers, Long Trail also recycles its mash – a mixture of barley and water left over after brewing – by giving it to local farms to feed their cows.

Craft brewing is generally environmentally friendly, said Paul Gatza, director of the Brewers Association, a nonprofit trade association based in Boulder, Colo.

“One of the reasons a lot of craft brewers started in the industry is that they had a different vision for what beer could be like … and that kind of extends to other things, where they feel like companies don’t have to be energy intensive and wasteful … so it kind of follows their personal ethics about why they got into brewing, trying to do it as cleanly as possible.”

He pointed to New Belgian Brewing Company in Fort Collins, Colo., which uses closed loop systems, wind power and resource recovery, and Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., which he said has the largest solar installation and hydrogen fuel cell of any company in California.

Long Trail is the first he had heard of to get electricity from cows.

And Long Trail has promised to spread the word about Cow Power.

“We look forward to improving the technology, bringing more people into this program and thereby really helping to preserve this pristine environment that we all live in,” said Walsh.


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