Agriculture US EPA and USDA fund new program to help livestock farmers install methane biogas recovery

Published on May 4th, 2010 | by Tina Casey

5

Big Methane Biogas Blowout Planned for U.S. Farmers

May 4th, 2010 by  

US EPA and USDA fund new program to help livestock farmers install methane biogas recoveryThe 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.

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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. 
 
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About the Author

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. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.



  • Solar water heater or solar hot water is water heated by the use of solar energy. Solar heating systems are generally composed of solar thermal collectors, a water storage tank or another point of usage, interconnecting pipes and a fluid system to move the heat from the collector to the tank.

  • John

    Expanding focus on CAFO-based anaerobic digesters is a good step to reduce methane emissions and protect local air and water quality. Given the potential to quickly deploy mature technology, though, shouldn’t the agencies be devoting more than a paltry $3.9 million? Providing technical and design support will be helpful, but with credit for capital investment still tight it’s hard to imagine the EPA will meet its objectives with the small funds involved here.

  • Michael Allen

    If I have a dairy farm how can I get the process started?

  • Sounds like a great idea but, as usual, it requires money and time. Hope it works!

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