BioCycle June 2012, Vol. 53, No. 6, p. 13
Montpelier, Vermont: Energy Bill Boosts Cow Power
Vermont’s newly adopted 2012 Energy Bill expands the state’s Clean Local Energy Accessible Now (CLEAN) Program (known locally as the Standard Offer Program) from 50 megawatts (MW) to 127.5 MW. Notably, the capacity of any distributed generation facility that provides “sufficient benefits to the operation and management of the electric grid” as a result of its location or other characteristics will not count towards the overall program cap of 127.5 MW. Therefore, no limit exists on the amount of clean local energy that can come online from facilities providing sufficient locational benefits. The change provides an additional boost to the state’s Cow Power program linking on-farm methane digesters to the power grid. “There was a certain written-in section that talked about how, upon passage, any farm system would be eligible for an open spot in the queue with no caps, so it’s a positive impact with respect to development of Cow Powered generation projects,” explains Central Vermont Public Services (CVPS) Renewable Energy Program Manager Dave Dunn.
CVPS launched its Cow Power program in 2003. Farmers process manure in anaerobic digesters to generate power, which CVPS customers voluntarily pay a premium to purchase. CVPS is trying to grow customer demand and support for the 4-cent premium that helps fund these projects. Dunn adds that he is also anxious to see how the 2012 Farm Bill turns out with respect to funding USDA Rural Development and Natural Resources Conservation Service programs “that have been significant parts of getting anaerobic digestion projects built here in Vermont. Without them we will continue to be significantly challenged, even with a standard offer and the 4-cent premium.”
While CVPS historically has worked with larger dairies with around 1,000 cows, the utility is “diving deeper” and helping the more average-sized farms participate in the Cow Power program. “Recently I saw a 95-cow facility, a 200-cow facility and a 300-cow facility, all of which were significantly supported by grant dollars and, with the bonus of the  Treasury Grant,” he notes “… Without those incentive, though, I think we will be challenged, even with an aggressive energy price and a premium price for Cow Power.”
Millstone Township, New Jersey: Horse Manure Farm PilotThis summer, Spectrum BioEnergy, in partnership with Rutgers University and Showplace Farms, will launch a biogas demonstration project utilizing manure from a small horse farm to demonstrate the ability of small-scale anaerobic digestion to manage equine waste. The project will use Spectrum’s BioBeetle System, a containerized, modular anaerobic digestion unit designed for organic waste streams between 500 lbs and 5,000 lbs per day. “The idea is to demonstrate if this is a viable way to dispose of animal waste,” says Michael L. Westendorf, Extension Specialist in Animal Sciences at Rutgers University. “The goal is to have a demonstration as to whether the technology can be used on a small farm.” Cost of the digester might be a limitation, he adds. “That’s one reason we want to do the project. There might be group of small farmers that would like to go in on something like this. It has to be located in the right place.”
Westendorf points to states such as Washington, Oregon and Wisconsin where successful community digesters have been launched and proven successful. But the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJ DEP) might prove a stumbling block, he says, particularly if food waste to boost biogas production were included in the equation (it won’t be in the pilot project). On the other hand, he notes, “in the state’s master plan there is room for community digesters, so in the right place at the right time it might work.”
The equine industry is the largest livestock sector in New Jersey, with more than 42,500 horses spread out over about 7,200 farms producing more than 400,000 tons of manure annually. Effective manure management is both a challenge and an environmental necessity, according to the partners. The project has received financial support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service through its Conservation Innovation Grant program. Garb-el Products Company will design a conveyor feed system for the demonstration project.
Everett, Washington: Cedar Grove Pulls Plug On Dry Digester
Cedar Grove Composting announced recently it has dropped its proposal to develop a $20 million anaerobic digester project at its Smith Island site in Everett. Cedar Grove reached the decision after the city of Everett and the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency determined that a full environmental impact study was required before the project could proceed. The company had selected a dry fermentation anaerobic digester technology to process food waste and yard trimmings at its composting operation in Everett; digestate would have been composted at the facility. Cedar Grove CEO Steve Banchero says the added costs in time and money required for an environmental impact statement makes the project “no longer financially feasible. He noted that $2.5 million has already been spent to prepare permits for the digester project. Instead, the Seattle-based company plans to pursue smaller digester installations, which could be placed on-site or near major food waste generators in the area, says Jerry Bartlett, the firm’s chief environmental and sustainability officer.
Oakley, Kansas: Biogas Project Receives $20.6 Million
An anaerobic digester project scheduled to become operational in 2013 has so far received $20.6 million in public funding, including a $15.6 million grant from the Kansas Department of Commerce and $5 million from USDA Rural Development. The digester will be built at Western Plains Energy (WPE) and is expected to produce enough biogas to replace 89 percent of the fossil fuel the facility uses as process heat to produce 50 million gallons of ethanol annually. WPE expects the digester will yield more than 100 million Btus of energy per hour daily.
Manure, the primary feedstock, will be supplied by a nearby feedlot augmented by grain dust and organic waste from a variety of food processing and municipal facilities. The project is expected to create 15 full-time as well as 100 additional construction jobs. “For the first time in 13 years, imported oil accounts for less than 50 percent of the oil consumed in America,” USDA Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsak said in announcing support for the project. “That is because we are producing more domestically, using more alternative fuels and using less energy through energy efficiency efforts. Projects such as this are a key part of the Obama Administration’s all-of-the-above approach to American energy that is supporting the development and usage of renewable energy, revitalizing rural economies and creating an America built to last.”
Alberta Canada-based Highmark Renewables has licensed its proprietary integrated bioRefinery patent and its patent-pending anaerobic digestion ethanol production technology to WPE in a deal worth $15 million. According to Highmark, the intellectual property gives WPE access to technology that “consumes waste and neutralizes odor of a massive feedlot, as well as other organic wastes.” According to WPE, the agreement reflects 6 million gallons of AD capacity annually, with an option to expand the plant to more than 10 million gallons/year of capacity.
Washington, D.C.: ABC Fly-In A Big Success
The American Biogas Council (ABC) held its Beltway fly-in this May, organizing 16 congressional and federal agency visits in Washington, DC. According to ABC, the sessions firmly established biogas and anaerobic digestion as a premier renewable energy source and waste management tool in the minds of federal elected officials and administrators. More than 20 ABC members participated over the course of two days, which included a reception that honored retiring Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE) with the ABC’s first Champion of Biogas award. Culminating the Washington, DC gathering, Congressional Biomass Caucus Cochairmen, Representatives Charles Bass (R-NH) and Peter Welch (D-VT) sponsored a briefing organized by ABC, which detailed the advantages of biogas and the legislative obstacles the industry faces. ABC members Turning Earth, Harvest Power, Eisenmann, Energy Systems Group and 2G-Cenergy helped sponsor the events, which were organized by ABC and ML Strategies.