Manure Manager

Features Regional Regulations
Editorial: January-February 201

Dairy sustainability update


January 20, 2011
By Marg Land


Topics

Recently, the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy released its first
progress report, entitled the U.S. Dairy Sustainability Commitment
Progress Report, updating the public on what advances the dairy industry
has made toward reducing its environmental impact.
Recently, the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy released its first progress report, entitled the U.S. Dairy Sustainability Commitment Progress Report, updating the public on what advances the dairy industry has made toward reducing its environmental impact.

And, while the group has a bit further to go to meet its goals, a strong start has been made.

The 62-page report highlights the work that has been done in the time between the launch of the dairy industry’s Sustainability Commitment in 2007 and August 2010, focusing primarily on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and energy impacts. Although the commitment contains a number of goals for 2020, the main focus for the industry is reducing GHG emissions by 25 percent by 2020.

According to the report, 500 dairy stakeholders, including environmental, scientific and academic experts, are working on 10 projects that will help the dairy industry reduce emissions and “build business value.” Some of those projects involve reducing emissions through innovative manure management, mainly harnessing the methane released by the manure through anaerobic digestion.

“There are approximately 124 anaerobic digesters on U.S. dairy farms, out of a total of approximately 55,000 dairy farms,” the report states. “An EPA AgSTAR analysis shows the potential for 2,600 additional digesters on dairy farms. While methane digesters hold great environmental and economic potential, their adoption in the United States is currently challenged by technology application, high capital outlays, regulatory barriers, low renewable energy prices and limited financing program.”

To address these barriers, the Innovation Center has set up a Dairy Power project team – captained by Mark Stoermann of Fair Oak Farms, Michael Flint of Flint Group, Bill Jorgenson of AGreen Energy LLC, and Shonodeep Modak of GE Energy – with the goal of constructing 1,300 digesters and reducing GHG emissions for fluid milk by 1.8 million metric tons by 2020. According to the project update, a stakeholder meeting in 2009 resulted in an action plan to accelerate adoption of anaerobic digestion in New York. Attendees at a Dairy Power summit held in the state set a goal that by 2020, 40 percent of all manure from New York dairy operations will have gone through the anaerobic digestion process. The team is also working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to connect farmers with resources, such as AgSTAR, and explore financing, such as loan guarantees and tax-exempt bonds. On the energy side, the group is also working with rural electrical co-operatives and dairy co-operatives to explore models that support digester-generated electricity and simplify connections to the power grid.

The Innovation Center has also formed a Biogas Capture and Transport Team to investigate the viability of creating a pipeline to send digester-generated methane to a central facility for processing and sale.

Currently the group is analyzing the economics of pipeline construction and biogas distribution to determine which technology and seller market is best. In the future, the team hopes to develop a biogas pipeline project among multiple neighboring dairies, each with a minimum of 500 head, and then share the resulting information with farmers, utility regulators, state governments and electrical companies.

Based on these two projects, plus eight others being conducted by the Innovation Center, “we anticipate that our projects will reduce GHG emissions by approximately 11 percent by 2020,” the progress report states.

The Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy is interested in hearing from stakeholders and the public about its work to date. The U.S. Dairy Sustainability Commitment Progress Report is available for download by visiting www.usdairy.com/sustainability . Feedback is also welcome: e-mail innovationcenter@usdairy.com.