Propane to biomass dryer leads to 90% savings

A Michigan farmer says a biomass-powered grain dryer is helping him cut energy costs during harvest.

Mike Milligan tells Brownfield he wanted to expand his propane drying system and a Google search led him to a Canadian option.

“We needed to do something, either natural gas but natural gas was really priced out of the market, or put in a big LP tank which was also going to be a big expense without a great return,” he shares.  “We went for the third option, and we burn wood chips from a local company.”

Milligan retrofitted his current dryer with an external heat source which he powers with local mulch, but other green biomass can be used.

“We are between 80-90 percent savings in drying per bushel, it’s going to take about five to six years for a full payback,” he says.

Milligan also received a 25 percent USDA Rural Energy for America grant and tax credits to offset the investment.  Today, that program can give farmers up to a 50 percent matching grant.

“I don’t think it’s a fit for everyone, but in my mind, if I’m up checking the dryer 2-3 times a night or whatever it may be, you’re already up, so checking the burner isn’t that big of a deal,” he says.

And, he says other farmers interested in greener options are reaching out since it’s the first of its kind installed in the U.S.

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