Biogas Initiative Recognizes
by Carol Ryan Dumas
The White House sponsored Biogas Roadmap is an initiative of voluntary strategies the U.S. dairy industry can use to
reduce methane emissions, produce biogas and recover nutrients with the anaerobic digestion of manure and food waste.
A White House initiative to enlist dairies in the national strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote renewable energy is setting up the dairy industry for long-term sustainability, according to the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy.
That initiative is the Biogas Opportunities Roadmap, a strategy to reduce methane emissions by recycling organic matter -- including manure and food waste -- into renewable energy, fertilizer, separated nutrients, and byproducts
Anaerobic digestion of manure to produce biogas and separate valuable nutrients is nothing new to the dairy industry, but it has been fraught with barriers and never got off the ground in the U.S., said Erin Fitzgerald, senior vice president of sustainability for the Innovation Center.
The technology is working well in other parts of the world, with "bio-villages" in just about ever community in some European countries. Those communities are converting manure and food waste to power and nutrients. There are 6,800 digesters in Germany alone, compared with about 200 in the U.S., she said.
The Roadmap is a strategy to overcome the barriers manure digestion has faced in the U.S., starting with the inclusion of biogas and the dairy industry in the renewable energy discussion, she said.
Somehow, biogas got left out while development moved forward on solar, wind and geothermal energy, and ethanol. The Roadmap partners the dairy industry with USDA, EPA and Department of Energy to evaluate the barriers and opportunities in biogas development, she said.
"For the first time, our industry got recognized. That's a huge success," she said.
The Innovation Centers' biogas initiatives contributed to the Roadmap, including 2013 research that identified a $2.9 million market potential for co-digesting manure and food waste.
The most important thing for the industry is that the initiative is voluntary -- not regulatory -- strategies to reduce methane; it's about business and financing, she said.
It will also help the industry – which contributes about 2 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions -- reach its voluntary goal to reduce its carbon footprint by 25 percent by 2020, Fitzgerald said
The first aspect of the Roadmap is interagency identification of the barriers and opportunities in biogas development. The second will be educating financial institutions that anaerobic digestion is a viable and beneficial technology and convene those institutions to create investment strategies to finance biogas opportunities, she said.
The third aspect of the Roadmap is to refocus a portion of the agencies' research to digestion technology and biogas, nutrient and byproduct recovery, research that will likely fuel improved technology in the private sector, she said.
The agencies will also promote biogas through existing agency programs, offering technical and financing assistance to support the use of biogas for clean energy, transportation fuel and other bio-based products.
The initiative is setting up the dairy industry for sustainability through biogas production, manure management and recovery of valuable nutrients, she said.
Digesters and a biogas system might not be for everybody, but strategically placed, it will be a benefit to all of farming and to communities. Adoption of the technology will help the dairy industry increase environmental stewardship and consumer and community trust, she said.
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