A March 2016 report from California’s Department of Finance showed building dairy digesters to be one of the most financially efficient ways for the state to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. At $8 per ton of carbon reduced, digesters–which capture methane and turn it into biogas–are a bigger bang for the bucks being spent in California’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund than other program except CALFIRE’s Forest Health Program ($4 per ton) and loans for organics and recycling ($4 per ton).
California’s Calgren Renewable Fuels uses renewable energy generated onsite to power its renewable fuel production process.
When the Calgren Ethanol Biodigester officially opened in Tulare County, California, early this year, it represented a major commitment by the state of California to employ sustainable energy production. Located in the town of Pixley, the biodigester utilizes waste from dairy operation Four J Farms to power the production of tens of millions of gallons of ethanol, all consumed in the Central Valley. It is the first digester of its kind in the state, relying on agricultural waste to create renewable natural gas to power another renewable energy facility, essentially creating a zero-waste life-cycle.
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The California Department of Food and Agriculture will award nearly $11.1 million to help pay to build five anaerobic digesters in the Central Valley, including one west of Visalia.
AgPower Visalia, LLC, a partnership that includes the Moonlight Dairy near Visalia, will receive $3 million to put toward the digester that will be built on the dairy. CDFA officials said the partnership will have to put up $4.7 million in matching funds for the project.
The grant is coming from Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, which is being funded by the CDFA and other state agencies that are investing money from California’s Cap-and-Trade Program auctions, in which businesses bid to buy allowances for greenhouse gas emissions.
Five projects from Kings, Fresno, Madera, Tulare and Kern counties have been awarded $11.1 million in state grants to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from decomposing dairy manure with digester technology.
A few California dairymen are dispensing home grown natural gas as well as milk as a profit item, pleasing their environmentalist friends as well as their neighbors.
They are turning their dairies’ most reliable by-product – cow manure – into odorless natural gas which they can sell easily and profitably or use to meet costly energy requirements on the farm.
The Bakersfield Californian: Pixley biogas project ‘a nice little fit’ for ethanol plant, nearby dairy
It may have sounded impossibly idealistic at one time, but there’s no longer any debate about whether dairy waste can be converted into low-carbon energy, even on an industrial scale.
The question these days is, under what conditions does it make financial sense?
A project that seeks to convert waste generated at dairy farms into biogas in California’s Central Valley has been commissioned. The Calgren Ethanol Biodigester, located in Pixley, California, will bring together a two-stage mixed plug flow digester, designed by Wisconsin-based DVO Inc. and built by Regenis, Ferndale, Washington, the largest builder of digesters in the western United States.
The California Energy Commission (CEC) invested $4.6 million in the project.
Tulare County, California, recently surpassed nearby Fresno County as the top agriculture-producing county in terms of economic value within the U.S. It’s also the country’s top dairy producing county. The result has been more investment and economic growth in a rapidly booming area already home to 450,000 people.
But there is also a downside to the local dairy industry’s continued surge: The San Joaquin Valley suffers from some of worst air pollution in the U.S., and cow effluent is a threat to the region’s already troubled watersheds.
Pixley—Sustainable energy production entered a new era in California today as a consortium of American companies joined together with state energy officials to launch the Calgren Ethanol Biodigester, which utilizes waste from dairy farms to power the production of tens of millions of gallons of ethanol, all consumed in the Central Valley.
The Two-Stage Mixed Plug Flow Digester™ designed by DVO, Inc. of Wisconsin and built by Regenis, the largest builder of digesters in the western United States.It is the first California digester to use agricultural waste to create renewable natural gas to power another renewable energy facility, creating a step forward in a virtuous, zero waste lifecycle
The process begins with local dairy, Four J Farms, sending their cow waste to the Calgren digester, which captures methane (an extremely potent greenhouse gas) and burns it as clean biogas. While Calgren will be utilizing the renewable gas to power its facility, the digester will also greatly reduce bacteria and pathogens so dairy farmers can reuse the liquids safely on their crops, saving millions of gallons of water and protecting fragile watersheds.
Digesters have other advantages as well, including reducing air and odor emissions, both important issues in California’s Central Valley. According to the American Biogas Council, replacing just 10 percent of California’s natural gas supply with renewable gas would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by tens of millions of metric tons per year, while cutting wildfire, air pollution and landfilling–issues raised by the California Energy Commission (CEC) when they invested $4.6 million in the project.
“The San Joaquin Valley is challenged with some of country’s worst air pollution,” said Janea A. Scott, Commissioner at the CEC. “The Pixley Biogas anaerobic digester is the first anaerobic digester on a California farm permitted to use all feedstocks, including municipal green waste and food processing waste. This type of innovative technology helps California meet its clean air, petroleum reduction, and climate goals.”
Event host Lyle Schlyer, President of Calgren Renewable Fuels, echoed her thoughts. “I am proud of the contribution that Calgren can make to this incredibly green, low-carbon intensity project. Digesters are often talked about, but actually building one and getting it into operation doesn’t happen all that often. This is a marriage of industrial and dairy interests.”
Currently, California is forced to import over 90 percent of its natural gas, costing the state thousands of jobs and billions of dollars. In fact, California constructed nearly half of all the new natural gas-fired power plants built in the U.S. in 2013. Renewable natural gas could significantly change that equation by utilizing organic waste to power farms, factories and communities.
Just last month, the CEC issued rules that could send the number of digester projects around the state skyrocketing, a subject touched on by Regenis Vice President, Bryan VanLoo in his remarks.
“Our mission is to reimagine reusable resources. In the case of California, that potential is almost limitless. Utilizing digesters would not only create hundreds of new construction and operation jobs in rural communities like Tulare County, but there is enough organic waste to power 2 to 3 million homes or to generate 2.5 billion gallons of clean, ultra-low carbon transportation fuels,” he said.
The digester launch coincided with the opening of the World Ag Expo just up the road from the Calgren facility, as a way to share the technology with those who need to dispose of farm or food waste, and who could generate additional revenue while helping the state to reach its environmental goals.
Steve Dvorak, owner and President of DVO, Inc. added, “The launch of the Pixley anaerobic digester is a great opportunity for the community to learn about the possibilities of anaerobic digestion. DVO digesters are a unique, efficient and high-performance waste management solution for agribusinesses and municipalities. We’re proud to have partnered with Regenis and Calgren on this exciting installation.”
The Pixley digester was also heralded at the event for being the first system in California to be 100% American made and constructed. “Benjamin Franklin, America’s greatest inventor, reminded us ‘waste not, want not.’ Agribusinesses, food processors and municipalities are realizing that Franklin’s words ring as true today as they did over 200 years ago. We’re proud to be a part of that American legacy,” VanLoo said.