Cow power: Renewable energy from manure in New York


Rosemount, Ill., December 14, 2009 — Methane digesters on dairy farms could become a source of renewable energy for residents and businesses in New York.

Summit attendees of the Dairy Power Summit in Syracuse set a 2020 goal that 40 percent of all manure from New York dairy farms goes through the anaerobic digestion process, which captures methane from manure and generates renewable energy.

The energy produced from this effort could power 32,000 homes while strengthening the economic vitality of New York’s dairy farms. It also would reduce New York’s greenhouse gas emissions by 500,000 metric tons of carbon, equivalent to taking 100,000 cars off the road.

The Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, with sponsorship from GE Energy, coordinated the Dairy Power Summit in order to identify and act on opportunities to increase anaerobic digester adoption by dairy farms of all sizes. Participants represented dairy farms; utilities; milk cooperatives; digester developers; financial institutions; academia; and local, state and federal governments.

Gov. Paterson’s “45 by 15” program is one of the nation’s most aggressive energy efficiency and renewable energy initiatives.

By 2015, New York State will meet 45 percent of its electricity needs through improved energy efficiency (15 percent) and clean renewable energy, such as methane (30 percent).

For more news about renewable portfolio standards, visit our renewable energy topic center.

This goal is in line with the commitment of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy to reduce industrywide greenhouse gas emissions associated with fluid milk by 25 percent by 2020.

To achieve 40 percent anaerobic digester use by 2020, attendees of the summit collaborated to develop an action plan made up of more than a dozen projects. Some of the projects include:

American Agricultural Biogas Coalition — Form a nationwide, cross-industry alliance to provide a unified voice promoting renewable, sustainable biogas solutions. This new organization would advocate at the local, state and national levels.

Small-Farm Digester Initiative — Host an innovation contest that would award $1 million toward the development of a digester system for a smaller-scale farm with between two and 200 cows.

NY Cow Power — Develop a voluntary rate-payer program to enable electric consumers to support anaerobic digesters (e.g., residential or commercial customers pay 4 cents per kWh extra on utility bills to help fund digesters). This program would be modeled on the successful program of Central Vermont Public Service.

Digester Implementation Project — Collaborate with 20 farms to issue a joint request for proposal to install 20 digesters. This will reduce the cost and complexity that farmers could experience individually.

Model Community Digester System — Develop a best-in-class model for a community digester. Projects will be explored in Lowville, N.Y., and potentially near Skaneateles, N.Y.

Rolling Biogas — Research opportunities to clean and compress biogas for use as natural gas in vehicles, a viable alternative to diesel fuel.

Attendees of the summit have formed project teams to refine the ideas and work toward the first milestones. These efforts will increase the availability of energy and fuel from methane digesters while strengthening the role of farms within their regions.


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