November 18, 2011 | General

Anaerobic Digest

BioCycle November 2011, Vol. 52, No. 11, p. 12

Albany, New York
The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) is accepting proposals for anaerobic digester projects within the state of New York. Approximately $57 million is being made available to support the installation and operation of anaerobic digester gas (ADG)-to-electricity systems through 2015. Funding is on a first-come, first-served basis, with up to $1 million available per host site, depending on project size. Application packages will be considered through December 31, 2015, or until all funding has been fully committed.
Eligibility requirements for the grants include: New equipment must be located at host sites owned or operated by customers who currently pay the New York State renewable portfolio standard surcharge; Anaerobic digester biogas-fueled electricity must be generated and used by the host site where a utility meter that is interconnected with the grid is located; and Anaerobic digester systems must consist of commercially available technologies. Learn more about the grants at
Annapolis, Maryland
The state of Maryland is seeking proposals for renewable energy generated from animal waste. Gov. Martin O’Malley announced the program as part of the Clean Bay Power project to promote use of renewable energy, reduce Maryland’s contribution to agricultural runoff in the Chesapeake Bay and encourage job creation. The State’s renewable energy portfolio standard (RPS) requires that electric suppliers purchase 20 percent of their power from clean energy sources by 2022. Maryland is seeking to purchase electricity from manure-based fuels in order to reduce the amount of nutrients, specifically nitrogen and phosphorus, entering the Chesapeake Bay.
The Clean Bay Power project is an undertaking of the Maryland Department of General Services in coordination with the Maryland Departments of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environment, the Maryland Energy Administration and the University System of Maryland. The successful supplier must have an electric generating capacity of up to 10 MW from animal waste – such as poultry litter or livestock manure – and must be directly connected to the regional electricity grid. The selected supplier must begin providing electricity to the state by December 31, 2015.
Energy solicited through this RFP is limited to projects consuming animal waste as their primary fuel and which also qualify under the current definition of a “Tier I” renewable energy resource under the Maryland RPS. For the Clean Bay RFP: Deadline for proposal submission: November 30, 2011.
Perris, California
CR&R Waste and Recycling Services is developing a 150 tons/day anaerobic digester at its material recovery facility (MRF) and transfer station in Perris. The project is well into the permitting process. When it goes online in 2013, the project will be among the first facilities in California using anaerobic digestion technology to process municipal solid waste to produce biomethane, according to the developer. Construction is expected to begin in 2012. “It is a self-generated project within CR&R,” says Senior Vice President Paul Relis, adding that the facility received $4.5 million in funding from the California Energy Commission and technical support from Los Angeles County. “This is really a project motivated to address long-term management of organic materials in our operations.” CR&R serves more than 2.5 million people and 5,000 businesses throughout Orange, Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Imperial and Riverside counties and recycles more than 120,000 tons/year of materials.
“We had evaluated many technologies over the past 10 year,” adds Relis. “We looked into gasification years ago and decided that given the complexity of the waste streams we were evaluating, long-standing opposition to thermal systems in California and the need to have a long term solution for organics recycling that AD [anaerobic digestion] was the right technology for our company. We were looking long term at all the changes in the waste stream … One constant and the largest unmet need for diversion from landfill is organic material.”
Relis says CR&R’s internal evaluation combined with a friendlier political climate for anaerobic digestion technology led the company down its present path. “It’s been a complicated effort,” he says. “You don’t see too many AD facilities yet, although some are close to getting permitted and a few may be happening in the next few years.” Organic Waste Systems (OWS) will be the technology vendor.
While the veteran of organics recycling sees promise in AD, he says the economics have to make sense as well. “I visited Sweden about three years ago and saw first-hand how anaerobic digestion technology is converting organics to renewable natural gas and thought ‘this is a great way to go.’ Unfortunately, we don’t have the same subsidies or policies, and landfill prices are at a fraction of what they are in Europe.” Those differences can make construction of large AD facilities a tough sell, Relis notes. “We are a for-profit company, and we have to be able to justify the investment.”
Washington, DC
In late October, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that USDA has funded anaerobic digester projects in eight states to encourage renewable energy production, reduce energy costs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions and farm-based pollution. Funding for the biodigesters is provided through the USDA Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) and has created or saved an estimated 13.4 billion kWh of electricity and reduced almost 14.5 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, according to Vilsack. One of the funded digesters is being constructed on Heller Farms near Alma Center in Jackson County, Wisconsin. It received a $1.3 million loan and a $500,000 grant and is expected to produce 3.3 million kWh of renewable energy annually (equivalent of powering 400 average Wisconsin homes per year). Other farm digester projects receiving grants and/or loans are one in Florida, three in Idaho, one in Iowa, six in Ohio, two in Oregon, four in Pennsylvania and one in Vermont.
In Fiscal Year 2011, USDA, through the REAP program, provided nearly $21 million in assistance for biodigesters, and leveraged over $110 million in project development. Through its Value-Added Producer Grant program, USDA provides planning grants of up to $100,000 and working capital grants of up to $300,000 to be used for establishment of a biodigester. Additionally, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) offers financial and technical assistance through the Environmental Quality Incentives (EQIP) program. The amount of appropriations for the REAP program funds in FY2012 are uncertain but the general consensus is the allocation from Congress will be significantly less than in previous years.
Funding of each award is contingent upon the recipient meeting the conditions of the grant or loan agreement. Grants can finance up to 25 percent of a project’s cost, not to exceed $500,000 for renewable energy systems and $250,000 for energy efficiency.
Brattleboro, Vermont
Carbon Harvest Energy is developing a closed-loop energy and food production system that begins by tapping methane in landfills. Its model is to first “harvest” the electricity from the generator and then use thermal heat from it to maintain greenhouses where products, including produce, tilapia fish and animal feed, will be grown. The company cut the ribbon on its first methane gas to electricity generator (210 kW) at the former Windham Solid Waste Management District landfill in Brattleboro about a year ago and is beginning construction on a greenhouse. Central Vermont Public Service is buying the electricity through one of the first contracts issued under Vermont’s Sustainably Priced Energy Development Program (SPEED), which guarantees a rate for each type of renewable energy.
But, according to Kim Locke, company vice-president, the project goes far beyond the landfill and electricity. Waste from the fish operation will be used to fertilize growing operations, and Carbon Harvest is exploring use of algae as a sink for carbon dioxide emissions and as a feedstock for biofuels. “We are using Brattleboro to explore as many types of renewable energy that make sense for the community,” says Locke. “Besides the landfill gas-to-energy plant, we are also evaluating a solar project on the cap of the landfill as well as a biodigester that would run on the algae we produce and other high-strength organic wastes from community businesses and farms. We would use the interconnection permit and infrastructure that we have already invested in, which cost over $100,000 to permit, engineer and install.”
Another Carbon Harvest project, in Lebanon, New Hampshire, will feed about 1.6 MW into the grid from landfill-to-gas generation and will include a half-acre greenhouse and about two acres of algae production thermally heated by the landfill generator. Two other projects on the drawing board can tap the urban demand for sustainably raised fish and produce: One in Manchester, New Hampshire will generate 500 kW and include 10 acres of greenhouses in the first stage, Locke says, and a 1.6 MW operation in Sullivan County, New York, will include 25 acres of greenhouses.

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