New York Dairy Farms Hope to Harness Methane from Manure

A recent summit of more than 200 dairy farmers and industry stakeholders in Syracuse, N.Y. set a goal of processing 40% of the state's dairy manure into methane-powered electricity by 2020. If achieved, the effort could power 32,000 homes and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 500,000 metric tons of carbon equivalent.
The Innovation Center of U.S. Dairy, with sponsorship from GE Energy, coordinated the Dairy Power Summit in late October. Results of the Summit were released this week.
The state of New York has a "45 by 15” goal of meeting 45% of its electricity needs through improved energy efficiency and clean, renewable energy by 2015. That goal is in line with the Dairy Innovation Center's goal to reduce industry-wide GHG emissions associated with fluid milk by 25% 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.