Biogas – Needed Revenue for 21st Century Dairy Farming
“Germany, Italy, and Lancaster County, Pennsylvania (USA). What do they all have in common?”
Unlike much of the world, these regions all maximize the “total output” of each cow to operate more profitably. This means selling milk but also converting manure into electricity or renewable gas, useful heat and free bedding. In addition, they produce a liquid fertilizer that is easier and less expensive to spread, more plant available and weed seed free. Here is video of an experienced Lancaster County, PA nutrient manager describing the benefits of liquid and solid digestate. These farm communities incorporate anaerobic digesters as an “everyday” piece of equipment, the same as a tractor or alley scraper.
“Are there Grants and Incentives?”
Financial Support via the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act .
In the USA, established federal and state agricultural funding budgets have increased in historic proportion due to the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) which allocated $40 billion for agriculture to fight climate change. This includes the $3.5 billion for the Climate Smart Commodities Grant. There are also billions of additional dollars for two traditionally underfunded programs focused on digesters – the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) and Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).
Corporations also purchase carbon credits and this provides funding worldwide as well. We also monetize Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) and RINs for each farm.
“Every Digester Project is Unique. How Do I Maximize the Financial Benefit at my Farm?”
Not all digester projects are created equal.
Unlike wind and solar energy, biogas systems (anaerobic digesters) have lots of “moving parts” and potential revenue streams based on circumstances. Since farmers want to farm, Agricultural Digesters LLC handles all development steps through launch. That includes:
- Calculating economic feasibility over 20 years. Income and expense.
- Identifying all revenue streams available including energy sales, environmental benefits, bedding offsets, heat offsets, compost and peat moss replacement sales. We are also developing new markets.
- Knowing the available grants and obtaining them.
- Matching each farm with the most suitable technology equipment providers and obtaining competitive bids.
- Researching and obtaining electrical interconnection approval, or renewable gas upgrading, while minimizing that cost.
- Identifying additional organic waste to increase energy output.
- Finding investment if needed, often by leveraging the Investment Tax Credit (ITC). Goal is maximizing farm ownership.
- Consulting on the permitting process.
- Operational guidance and equipment servicing post launch.
“My cows love sand and I will never switch!”
Are digested bedding solids as good as sand bedding?
Bedding on sand is understandable. Respected institutions such as Cornell University feel sand is best. But farms should also weigh the additional “cow comfort” that can be purchased when all electricity and bedding costs are eliminated/offset by a digester. For example, more workers can be hired and feed quality improved. View video of experienced nutrient manager discussing digested solids.
In addition, the latest techniques make it possible to bed cows on sand without damaging digesters. For those farms, the best of both worlds?
“We can’t get much money for renewable electricity in my region…”
Going off grid or producing renewable natural gas (RNG)
Should your region pays too little for electricity, why not just make your own? By going “off grid”, a small to mid-size farm can offset its typical $60,000 annual bill. See time lapse video and details of smaller digester here.
Another option for lucky farms located near natural gas pipelines is to upgrade their biogas to pipeline quality. The costs are higher but so are profits.
“Will it work? I heard horror stories!”
Anaerobic digestion is proven technology.
Many farmers are not familiar with the proven American and European companies that have built hundreds of successful agricultural digesters. We know them and can find the one best suited to your unique situation.
A proven digester company has decades of experience not only refining their technology but observing the impact of different feedstocks (e.g. cow, pig and chicken manure as well food processing waste). They have seen every conceivable problem and developed solutions that keep digesters operating for decades – something important to investors who want proven suppliers.
“Will my farm smell better?”
85% – 90% odor reduction improves real estate prices, reduces neighbor complaints and improves quality of life for all.
Studies suggest a digester reduces manure odors 85%-90%. This means higher surrounding property values as well as fewer legal complaints from area homes and businesses.
At one one farm in Vermont a middle school is located less than 100 yards from its manure pit. The digester we plan for launch by early 2023 will eliminate this distraction to young students. The project will also allow any “future farmers” at the school to understand not only the economic benefits of biogas but also the importance of dairies being good stewards of the environment.
Standing on top of an American made complete mix digester are two visitors from the Government of Taiwan. Muir took them for a tour of Yippee Farm and others in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, USA. When the returned a report was submitted for the Taiwanese EPA.
“I’ve heard of farmers up at 3 AM with their digester. Seems like there is always some problem that needs to be dealt with.”
Do you want to be a farmer or a digester operator?
Inevitably, challenges occur with a digester that is fed different organics from various sources, in varying amounts, at different times. This does not happen to the farmer who uses consistent, slurry waste from his own farm – for example, manure. Another sure way to limit operational supervision time is to co-digest a small percentage of the same off-farm substrate, such as brewery waste, in consistent quantities, on a regular basis.
This is not to say that co-digesting multiple feedstocks is a bad idea. Such a system attracts tipping fees from food waste haulers and can be more profitable than a “manure only” digester. However, it is far more time consuming and farmers must decide if that is the direction they want to go.