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Welcome to the South Carolina Institute for Energy Studies The South Carolina Institute for Energy Studies at Clemson University was founded by the State Legislature in 1982 to help South Carolina and the nation address energy related issues.

Waste-to-Energy Program

Project Overview

SCIES received a grant from the SC Department of Agriculture/South Carolina Energy Office to develop an on-farm agricultural waste-to-energy facility in South Carolina. The conversion of agricultural waste and crops into electricity is one of the fastest growing renewable energy industries in Europe, but this technology has not been successful in the US because of substantially lower electricity prices, lack of subsidies and long term price guarantees, and high capital and operating costs for these facilities.

Working with the Burrows Hall Swine Farm in Williamsburg County, SCIES evaluated several potential technologies for converting the waste from 10,000 hogs into electricity. Anaerobic digestion was selected as the only technology applicable for the high moisture content of this waste stream. In anaerobic digestion, bacteria that do not require oxygen (anaerobes) convert organic materials to methane-containing biogas . The biogas produced by an anaerobic digester can be burned as a heat source, used to fuel an electric generator, or even to power vehicles. There are presently over 2,000 agricultural anaerobic digester systems on farms in Europe, but only about 150 in the United States. Those systems are primarily in regions of the country with very large livestock operations and where electricity is more expensive than it is in the Southeast.

For this demonstration project SCIES selected an in-ground digester with a flexible, insulated cover. Biogas generated from the swine waste collects under the cover and is fed to a reciprocating six-cylinder engine coupled with an electric generator. The generator will produce 180 kW of electricity; enough to power approximately 90 average South Carolina homes. Heat generated by the engine will be transferred back to the digester to keep it at the desired operating temperature, optimal for the anaerobic bacteria. The electrical power generated will be sold to Santee Cooper, South Carolina's state-owned electric utility under a power purchase agreement (PPA).


See the press release video

Santee Cooper has published an eight page article highlighting the project entitled "Pig Power". The original article can be located on Santee Cooper's Website "PowerSource-Winter2012".

Gas Engine and Electrical Generation Equipment

Insulated Digester Cover

Visit the Waste to Energy Photo Gallery

Benefits include:

  • Income to the farmer for supplying the waste stream.
  • Income from electricity sales.
  • 180 kW of green power added to Santee Cooper's portfolio.
  • Income from the sale of carbon credits.
  • A 5,000 ton per year reduction in greenhouse gas.
  • Reduced odors from the farm's waste water lagoon.
  • Cleaner water and cleaner air in the swine houses, resulting in improved animal health.

The facility is scheduled to begin operation June 30, 2011.

Successful implementation of the Burrows Hall Swine Farm waste-to-energy project represents a first for South Carolina and the road is now paved for many more such projects on farms across the state, increasing our portfolio of renewable energy and decreasing our dependence on fossil fuels.

Project Participants

South Carolina Institute for Energy Studies
South Carolina Energy Office
SC Department of Agriculture
Santee Cooper
Environmental Fabrics, Incorporated
Burrows Hall Swine Farm

For more information contact:

Robert Leitner, SCIES Director


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