New York Gov. George Pataki believes in green energy. And last week he signed a new law into effect that requires utility companies to buy electricity that is generated on farm from manure.

A few dairy producers in the state have already installed anaerobic digesters on farm. The digesters essentially speed up the natural process of converting manure to methane gas. That captured methane gas is then used to generate electricity

"Any capturing you do of it benefits the environment, especially if it's used as fuel in place of other fuels like petroleum or natural gas," said Nina Habib Spencer, spokeswoman for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to Newsday.com. "Methane's already there. Why not harness it?"

However, setting up anaerobic digesters is not cheap. But this new law which requires power companies to buy any excess electricity generated can help producers foot the bill, said Gary Davidson, spokesman for the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA).

Matlink Dairy Farms, a 675-cow dairy in Chautauqua County in western New York, is the first in the state to sell electricity. The system generates 884,000-kilowatt hours of electricity annually, which is enough to power the dairy plus $1,000 per month in sales to the Niagara Mohawk Power Corporation. According to Davidson, in addition to the Matlink Dairy, five other dairies have digesters up and running, 17 more are being built and the new law will probably encourage many more.

State officials estimate that as the new law encourages more producers to build methane digesters that annual greenhouse gas emissions could be reduced by 40,000 metric tons — about the equivalent of taking
32,000 cars off the road.

The legislation is a win-win. It creates a new source of revenue for farms which helps them remain competitive and helps protect the environment.

Newsday.com, Associated Press