July 14, 2015, Sacramento, CA – The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) has selected five projects to receive about $11.1 million in grants to implement digester technology on California dairy operations aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) from dairy manure.
Financial assistance for the installation of dairy digesters comes from the state’s cap-and-trade program for combating climate change. Through the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, CDFA and other state agencies are investing cap-and-trade auction proceeds in projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions while providing a variety of additional benefits to California communities.
Recipients of the CDFA grants will provide an estimated $18.9 million in matching funds for the development of the digester facilities.
“These projects demonstrate a commitment by California to support efforts by dairy farmers to fight climate change by reducing greenhouse gases from the agriculture sector,” said CDFA secretary Karen Ross. “This is definitely a win-win for agriculture: cutting methane emissions and improving the environment while also generating revenue from renewable bioenergy.”
Dairy manure produces methane when it decomposes. Dairy digesters collect manure in tanks or lagoons for decomposition in an oxygen-free environment and then capture the methane produced so none escapes into the atmosphere. That methane can then be used as a biofuel to power generators that produce electricity or fuel natural gas vehicles.
Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, trapping more than 80 times as much heat in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide over a short-term (20-year) period. These dairy digester projects support California’s efforts to reduce methane and other short-lived climate pollutants, helping meet the state’s goal of reducing greenhouse gases to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030, as recently called for by Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr.
CDFA conducted a multi-stage review of all applications, including administrative, financial and technical reviews, to verify applicants’ GHG reduction calculations and assess the feasibility of digester technologies. Final scoring and review was conducted by the multi-agency Dairy Digester Research and Development Program’s technical advisory committee, a subset of the California Federal Dairy Digester Working Group.
The projects also fulfill the requirements of SB 535 (De Leon, 2014) that at least 25 percent of Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund grants benefit disadvantaged communities, as identified by the California Environmental Protection Agency. Disadvantaged communities in the Central Valley will benefit from improved air and water quality protections, as well as job creation. Additionally, Central Valley dairy farmers will have revenue-generation potential by converting agricultural waste into renewable bioenergy.
In the process of developing the program guidelines for incentivizing and implementing digesters, CDFA worked closely with staff from the state and regional water control boards and air districts to ensure the program implements the highest levels of water and air quality protections consistent with existing regulatory requirements.