Overregulation, bureaucracy and mounds of red tape have hindered the development of the manure digester market in California. But, a new push by California Gov. Jerry Brown could breathe new life into the development of anaerobic digesters and renewable energy.
According to the Contra Costa Times, Gov. Brown wants California to produce 20,000 new megawatts of renewable electricity by 2020. This would be enough to power the city of San Francisco 20 times and would triple the amount of electricity California currently receives from renewable sources.
One of Gov. Brown’s top energy advisers indicates that anaerobic digesters could be part of this energy solution. Currently,only a handful of dairy digesters are in operation in California, but the potential is there for many more.
The announcement by Gov. Brown is a positive one, says Allen Dusault, program director for sustainable agriculture with Sustainable Conservation. But translating that into the field can be challenging. Dusault says he hopes that Gov. Brown’s initiative results in higher premiums paid for electricity from digesters.
Paul Martin, director of environmental services with Western United Dairymen, agrees that it is a positive step, but until there is a better price paid for the gas, digester development will be relatively stagnant. “It all depends on the economics,” he adds. “We have the technology and have the resources, but just don’t get paid enough.”
Martin believes that a technology incubator program for anaerobic digesters, similar to what was done for the solar industry would help get manure digester technology commercialized and into the mainstream. “An incubator program would let the industry try a lot of types of technology and come up with the most efficient one,” he explains.
Gov. Brown is hosting a two-day conference in California this week to start the ball rolling on his plan.