Environmental Protection

Dairy Power Summit Jumpstarts N.Y. Digester Projects

At the New York Dairy Power Summit in Syracuse, N.Y., recently, GE Energy showcased its biogas engines that are helping dairy farmers turn cow manure into renewable energy.

Methane from manure is the second largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the fluid milk value chain while also representing a largely untapped source of renewable energy.

According to the New York State Department of Agriculture & Markets, the state has 6,200 dairy farms with more than 600,000 dairy cows, but only 10,000 cows are used in energy production through the use of 12 methane digesters that generate 1.3 megawatts. Manure from approximately 2,500 cows can produce electrical output of 500 kW—enough to power roughly 200 homes.

"The Dairy Power Summit is designed to jumpstart the development of additional digester projects in New York by making a bold commitment to action and establishing an ambitious goal for anaerobic digester biogas-to-energy project development through 2020 and committing to a strategy to reach those targets," said Roger George, general manager of GE Energy's gas engine business for North America. "New York's dairy farmers have an opportunity to tap into a new source of revenue that will simultaneously help the state increase its renewable energy production and lower its greenhouse gas emissions."

GE Energy developed the Jenbacher biogas engine, which uses digester methane biogas to generate electricity, can help support a farm's onsite power requirements and the regional grid.

"We've estimated that this could generate $38 million in new revenue for dairy farmers around the country and offset 2 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e) annually by 2020," said Rick Naczi, executive vice president at Dairy Management Inc., which manages the national dairy check off program on behalf of the nation's dairy farmers. "Increased adoption of anaerobic digesters would not only expand local jobs and strengthen local economies, but move the U.S. toward creating a more sustainable food system."

The dairy industry has committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2020, which is equivalent to removing 1.25 million passenger cars off the road every year.

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