Pig Power in Eastern North Carolina

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Eastern North Carolina is home to the densest industrial swine farming activity in the world.  The pork production industry is foundational to the eastern North Carolina economy, accounting for 11,821 jobs and over $200 million in wages. The swine industry’s economic activity comes with a cost however as high concentrations of swine waste can take a toll on environmental quality, public health and property values in neighboring communities.

Understanding that questions remain regarding the mechanics and financing of swine waste-to-energy development, the Kenan Institute in close partnership with Duke University’s Carbon Offsets Initiative and with UNC’s Department of City and Regional Planning has begun to investigate the potential to develop the swine waste resource for electricity production and other uses.

Last fall, NC Strategic Economic Growth commissioned a report by UNC’s Department of City and Regional Planning’s Economic Development Workshop to explore the opportunities and impacts of hog waste in Eastern North Carolina. Carolyn Fryberger, a graduate student in the course, delved deeper into the topic and wrote her Master’s Paper Waste Not, Want Not: Financing Swine Biogas in Eastern North Carolina. “”Hog waste to energy is a very rich topic connecting many issues and stakeholders.  These projects are fairly new in Eastern NC but pose a great opportunity for hog farmers and neighboring communities.  Hopefully this research will help bring down the barriers to adoption by improving understanding of these systems, their benefits and the policy that can support them,” says Fryberger.

The current waste management approach termed ‘lagoon and spray’ involves collecting waste in open lagoons and intermittently spraying it on adjacent fields as the lagoon fills.  Anaerobic digestion technology offers a waste management solution that can help to mitigate community impacts while creating new forms of revenue from on-farm electricity production.