The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Agriculture are teaming up to help farmers invest in methane biogas recovery, to the tune of $3.9 million over the next five years. The new funds represent a big push for a rapidly growing trend that enables farmers to reclaim a renewable energy resource, cut their utility costs, and take a big chunk out of their greenhouse gas emissions. The new partnership aims to expand the existing AgStar program for reducing methane emissions, primarily by giving technical assistance and guidance to farmers who might otherwise not have the wherewithal to initiate a biogas recovery system.
If all goes according to plan the new program will see plenty of action. According to EPA’s count there are only about 150 onsite biogas recovery systems at U.S. livestock operations, but there are about 8,000 farms that would be good candidates for the installations — and that’s to say nothing of the new green jobs being generated in the emerging biogas recovery industry.
Methane Biogas from Livestock
The EPA estimates that if all 8,000 farms had biogas recovery systems, they would produce more than 1500 megawatts of renewable energy, the equivalent of taking 6.5 million cars off the road. Cutting greenhouse gas emissions is the motivation for the push behind the Agstar program, but since major players like Cargill are involved in livestock biogas recovery, you can bet the bottom line is also a big consideration. In addition to capturing a valuable fuel, a sustainable biogas recovery system could also have carbon trading value.
Livestock and Waste Disposal
Another attraction of biogas recovery systems is a significant reduction in the cost of waste disposal. The process yields an inert fertilizer that can be used onsite or sold for offsite use. This sustainable approach to waste reclamation makes a lot more sense than storing raw animal waste in lagoons or pouring it on open fields — a practice which in one recent case lead to a jury award of $11 million against a factory farm.
Image: Cows by St0rmz on flickr.com.
Tina Casey specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. You can also follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.