Having the first methane digester of 14 pilot projects in the state come online should have been a joyous occasion for all. While there were celebrations, those attending the festivities at the Lodi, Calif., dairy were well aware of the frustrations and problems that have plagued the project.

The Dairy Power Production Program was created in 2001 to turn manure into much-needed energy for California. And with the state’s goal to have 20 percent of its power come from renewable sources it seemed to be a good fit. However, the projects are all two years behind schedule. And much of the frustration has been blamed on power companies not supporting the initiative, and taking up to a year to approve permits connecting biogas facilities to the power grid. In addition, low milk prices, budget cuts that resulted in less state and federal funding as well as some technical difficulties have played a role, too.

As this first dairy’s methane digester comes on line many of those problems have been solved. And 12 out of 14 total projects should be up and running before the end of the year.

From the producers’ standpoint, the next hurdle will be to see if the investment will pay for itself.

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Sacramento Bee