UNH celebrates unique composting system

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DURHAM, N.H. (AP) - The University of New Hampshire is celebrating its use of a unique energy recovery composting system.

UNH is believed to be the only university in the nation with such a compost facility, which captures generated heat for water that can be pumped to reservoirs and used for wash water, provide pre-heated water for a boiler, or be used in heating systems.

The system at UNH’s Organic Dairy Research Farm, installed last year, preheats water used to clean and sterilize a tank and tubing in the milk room.

The compost facility was named for Joshua Nelson, who advanced the technology. Members of his family and former colleagues at Agrilab Technologies of Enosburg Falls, Vermont, recently gathered at the UNH farm to honor Nelson, who died in 2012.

“Having this facility honoring Josh is absolutely amazing,” said Beth Nelson Meachem, Nelson’s sister. “It recognizes his entrepreneurialism and his desire to educate and provide a foundation for change. I feel really pleased that UNH is inheriting that mission, and I look forward to seeing the growth and students who will go out into the world and make change.”

The system developed by Nelson and his colleagues uses fans to actively aerate compost and pull hot vapor from the bottom of a compost pile. That makes it possible to produce compost on a commercial scale with minimal mechanical turning.

The vapor is pulled into the heat exchange system.

Since the system was installed, scientists have conducted a number of research projects on composting, including best practices regarding aeration, compost recipes, fertilizer applications, irrigation methods, whether to cover the compost, loading methodology, composting in winter, and heat production.

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