Reporter: James Gherardi l Videographer: Jonathan Merryman
Chatham, VA - Pittsylvania County has some of the state's largest dairy farms, and VanDerHyde Dairy in Chatham is doing something pretty remarkable.
Tuesday was tour day at the VanDerHyde Dairy Farm. Public officials, students, and media were all on hand. But it wasn't to see the cows. The tour was of the farm's cutting-edge energy production method, hardly conventional, which turns feces into fuel.
"We produce about 8,000 gallons of milk a day that comes out of the cow, it's cooled, immediately goes in the truck, and it can go anywhere on the east coast," said Roy VanDerHyde, owner of VanDerHyde Dairy Farm.
But it's not the thousands of gallons of milk that's moo-ving the tour crowd.
"We take the methane out of the cow manure gas that is then run in an internal combustion engine to generate electric power," said VanDerHyde.
Long story short, VanDerHyde's more than 2,000 cows produce a whole lot of manure. The methane produced is collected, pumped and converted all here at the farm and then sold to Dominion Power Company.
"We have to look at alternative, renewable sources of energy, like methane gas, turning into electricity that goes on the grid. It's very exciting, it's new it's ingenious, and it's one of those things that I hope will be successful," said Rep. Robert Hurt, (R) 5th District.
"It's amazing what they're doing here," said Denise Hudson, owner of Hudson Heritage Farms in Halifax County.
VanDerHyde farm produces an excess of 300,000 kilo-watt hours every month. That's enough to power 300 households. For smaller farming operations, the example here is inspiring.
"One thing you could fantasize or envision would be small farms, coming together and cooperatively doing something like this," said Hudson.
The Anaerobic Digester as it's called cost $2.5 million, paid for in part by VanDerHyde along with federal and state grants. The hope now is that this rare practice will become common for farms across the Southside.