Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Denver Law Adjunct Professor Catherine Keske Studies how to Convert Animal and Food Waste to Energy

Denver Law Adjunct Professor Catherine Keske is conducting work to determine how to convert animal and food waste into energy, in an economically feasible way.

One technology is "anaerobic digestion." This involves using microbes to convert the waste into methane. The methane is captured and is either used as biogas (to heat a boiler) or converted into electricity through a generator. The methane capture reduces green house gas emissions and creates energy.

Dr. Keske, a leading resource economist and professor at Colorado State University, says:

"My findings have shown that in the western U.S., scarce water resources yield different agricultural management practices than in the eastern U.S. Less water, as well as relatively low energy prices, make anaerobic digestion less economically feasible than in the eastern U.S. However, some western municipalities and agricultural operations have shown that they can successfully implement anaerobic digestion if they can appropriately offset the costs. Nuisiance lawsuit mitigation is another factor that could make the anaerobic digestion technology economically feasible.

"Right now I am working with early adoptors to identify the elements that have made anaerobic digestion economically feasible for their company. This way, we can replicate their work with other operations."
Dr. Keske has been funded by four different agencies (National Resource Conservation Service, the Colorado Governor's Energy Office, U.S. A.I.D. and Montana State University Extension) to study the issue. She works rather closely with Dr. Sybil Sharvelle, a professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Colorado State. Dr. Sharvelle is developing technology, which she calls, "dry digestion technology" that can make anaerobic digestion feasible in arid climates like Colorado. Should dry digestion technology become commercially available, costs associated with water will also be reduced and more operations might be able to adopt anaerobic digestion technology.

Interested readers can download the technical report written for the Colorado Governor's Energy Office by clicking here.

Don Smith, director of Denver Law's Environmental and Natural Resources Law & Policy Program, said, "Dr. Keske newest project demonstrates once again why we are thrilled to have her teach at DU. Her courses -- "Economics of Natural Resources and the Environment: Policy, Markets, and Economic Measurement" and "Public Utilities Regulation" -- are highly respected by our faculty and students. The courses contribute richness and breadth to our outstanding environmental and natural resources program, and we are delighted she is part of our program."

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