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BEST-L  October 2011

BEST-L October 2011

Subject:

Why Don't More Dairies Have Digesters?

From:

"Dr. Ann C. Wilkie" <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Dr. Ann C. Wilkie

Date:

Mon, 10 Oct 2011 16:30:07 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (126 lines)

Why Donít More Dairies Have Digesters?

News from the World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wisconsin.

AgWeb.com, October 9, 2011.

http://www.agweb.com/blog/Dairy_Today_Expo_Extra_159/why_don%E2%80%99t_more_dairies_have_digesters/


ďThey are some of the dairy industryís anaerobic digester pioneers,
innovators who have taken stepsóno, leapsóto create renewable energy,
better manage manure, produce a steady supply of cow bedding, or simply
lessen their dairyís environmental footprint by reducing air emissions
and odor.


Despite their varied and sometimes difficult digester experiences, all
eight members of a panel discussion at World Dairy Expo last week remain
advocates of biogas productionóand united in their call for a national
energy policy that includes more support for manure-generated energy.


"Biogas has far more to add to the national energy grid than wind or
solar," said panel member John Vrieze, a Wisconsin dairy producer who
has built two digesters since 2005. "Iíve been a fan of renewable energy
for 15 years," Vrieze said. "But itís going to take more regulatory or
economic incentive for power companies to participate with dairies. Too
many electric cooperatives donít cooperate."


Vriez thought he would reap income from turning his dairyís biogas into
natural gas. But natural gas has fallen from $10 kw/hour to $3, to his
disappointment. Now his first digesterís biggest benefit is the
manure-based bedding it turns out, while his second digester's current
role is providing heat for a nearby greenhouse.


Panel member Mark Jacobs, a Wisconsin dairy producer who put his
digester into production nine months ago, said a policy change or more
incentive is needed to build more digesters and ensure their viability.
"Making biogas is no longer a technical challenge," Jacobs said. "But
more resources are needed. We have a policy problem."


"Environmentally, there are lots of good reasons to build digesters,"
said panel member Lee Jensen. "But building a digester has to be
economically feasible. It can be expensive. If you donít have the
equity, you might be better off with more cows or paying down debt."


In 2005, Jensen, also a Wisconsin dairy producer, became one of the
first U.S. dairy producers to join with a manufacturer to build an
onsite digester. Jensenís Five Star Dairy also struck an agreement to
sell the digesterís biogas to a local energy utility. But Jensenís road
to renewable energy hasnít been easy. The digester manufacturer,
Microgy, declared bankruptcy last year. Another company has taken over
the digesterís operation, and Jensen said his digester "hasnít missed a
beat." Even so, the six-year-old project "has been learning, learning,
learning," Jensen said. He added that he was glad he had built his
digester, and sees the potential for many more biogas systems in the U.S.

"We could produce more gas, but thereís no incentive without a market,"
Jensen said. "If our power rates were [as high] as they are in Europe,
digesters would be all over."


So why arenít they?


Wisconsinís Karl Crave of Crave Brothers Farm, whose familyís
aboveground digester became operational in 2007, also said a policy
change or more incentive is needed. "Vermontís the only state thatís
doing a good job [with digester incentives]," Crave said.


Perhaps no comment struck me more than one from Mike Geerlings, who, in
2006, built Michiganís first dairy digester project at his Scenic View
Dairy.


"This country would have been better off if all that Solyndra money had
gone to digester development instead," Geerlings said. "Solar and wind
donít compare with biogas in cost-per-kilowatt return." Renewable energy
from wind is only 30% efficient, Geerlings said, while dairy
digestersówhich operate and produce 365 days a yearóoffer 90%
efficiency. But apparently that fact doesnít seem to mean much in
government energy circles.


"Digesters are black sheep," Geerlings added. "Itís an industry that
relies on large animals, so weíre not politically correct."


So, if I understand correctly, we (in the broad national sense) shell
out millions to solar and wind companies whose energy reliance isnít
even half of biogas. We fight wars that have at least some connection to
our dependence on foreign oil. We throw up roadblocks to digester
development, at least in California, with a morass of permitting hurdles
in the name of air and water quality concerns.


Why, when energy is so important, donít more dairies have digesters?
Itís a good question.


AgStar, a division of the federal Environmental Protection Agency, has
obviously given this some thought. It sponsored the World Dairy Expo
session, "Straight from Producers: The Real Story on Anaerobic Digestion
Systems." But obviously moreómuch moreóis needed. President Obama,
Congress, U.S. Department of Energy, do you have a good answer?Ē


-- 
**********************************************************************
Dr. Ann C. Wilkie                          Tel: (352)392-8699
Soil and Water Science Department          Fax: (352)392-7008
University of Florida-IFAS
P.O. Box 110960                         E-mail: [log in to unmask]
Gainesville, FL 32611-0960
______________________________________________________________________
Campus location: Environmental Microbiology Laboratory (Bldg. 246).
http://campusmap.ufl.edu/
______________________________________________________________________
BioEnergy and Sustainable Technology Society
http://grove.ufl.edu/~bests/
**********************************************************************

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