Straus Family Creamery, based in Marshall, CA, is an organic creamery that makes products like butter, cream, milk, ice cream, and yogurt. Straus has partnered with BMW to reduce methane emissions from cow manure using biodigester technology. Methane from manure can be captured to burn in a biodigester which makes electricity. This electricity is sent back to the grid and the farm can generate revenue. The California Low Carbon Fuel Standard supports methane capture and conversion. Why methane? It traps far more heat than CO2, so it’s a potent greenhouse gas. A law passed in California a couple of years ago requires a 40% reduction in methane emissions by 2030.
The Straus methane digester decreases yearly methane emissions 1,600 metric tons of CO2e.
BMW is working on enhancing small-scale digester technology. Adam Langton, BMW USA Energy Services Manager, answered some questions about the methane reduction work for CleanTechnica.
Who had the idea for the partnership and how was it initiated?
As the BMW Group continues to expand and deepen our sustainability mission, we’ve expanded our goals beyond our production processes to materials, to now exploring how we can make electric vehicle fuel more efficient. BMW Group identified dairy farms as being one of the best sources to reduce emissions from electricity, and also identified this as a way to support local farms in California by providing them with a new revenue source.
What role does BMW play in it? Did BMW provide the biodigester or help fund it?
The BMW Group and the Straus Organic Dairy Farm are first demonstrating how we can generate LCFS credits through the existing biodigester at Straus Organic Dairy Farm. After we demonstrate that we can generate revenue in this way, we will explore how we can expand this approach, at Straus as well as other farms.
Why was BMW targeting methane reduction?
Dairy digesters produce a double emissions benefit. First, methane is captured from cow manure, preventing it from entering the atmosphere. Second, the methane is combusted to generate renewable electricity, replacing fossil fuel plants that would otherwise supply the grid. Although the methane is burned to generate the electricity, the resulting CO2 causes significantly less global warming impact. Methane is a regarded as being 28 times more potent than the equivalent amount CO2 from a climate change perspective. The Air Resources Board regards biodigester electricity as having a ‘negative’ carbon intensity in recognition of this double emissions benefit.
How many cows live at the dairy and how is the methane captured and used?
The methane is captured in a covered waste pool. Manure from the farm is collected in the pool, and the pool is sealed to capture methane. An 80 kW generator burns the methane to generate renewable electricity.
Is it burned to make electricity?
Yes, the methane is burned on site in the generator. The burning of methane releases CO2 emissions, but these emissions are significantly less than the emissions of the methane emissions that would otherwise have occurred had the manure not been collected.
Will BMW form partnerships with other dairies to also use biodigesters for methane reduction?
The BMW Group is exploring partnerships with additional dairies and hopes to match all of our California plug-in electric vehicle charging with dairy farm renewable electricity in the future.
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