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USDA funding to help turn manure into energy


November 29, 2010
By USDA Blogs

November 26, 2010 – Right
now, across the country, innovative agricultural producers are turning farm
animal manure into renewable energy through a process called anaerobic
digestion.

November 26, 2010 – Right
now, across the country, innovative agricultural producers are turning farm
animal manure into renewable energy through a process called anaerobic
digestion.

Anaerobic digestion is a
proven technology – available to farmers today – that represents a huge
economic opportunity for rural America, while simultaneously addressing our
nation’s energy and climate challenges. This technology utilizes bacteria that
breakdown waste and produce a biogas that contains methane and carbon dioxide.
The biogas is then captured and used as a source of renewable energy, primarily
by combusting the gas to generate electricity.

What’s so exciting about
these technologies, like anaerobic digester systems, is that they can take
manure and turn it into a more valuable resource. The biogas captured can be
used to meet on-farm energy needs, utilized in various forms ranging from the
biogas directly, to heat or electricity. Installing a digester can also
increase farm income by offsetting the need to purchase electricity or fuels,
and producers may be able to sell excess energy generated to the grid.

The economic opportunities
these technologies create go beyond renewable energy generation. The material
leftover after the manure is digested is rich in nutrients. This digestate can
be sold as fertilizer or other value-added products for additional revenue. And
because these projects will be installed and operated on farms throughout the country,
widespread adoption of anaerobic digesters has the potential to create new,
green jobs in rural America.

As impressive as the
economic benefits are, the environmental rewards are as equally compelling.
Anaerobic digesters actually provide two-fold greenhouse gas reduction. First,
they capture methane that otherwise would be emitted from the manure into the
atmosphere.

Second, by utilizing the
trapped biogas as a renewable energy source, digesters displace the need for
additional fossil fuels. In addition, digesters eliminate odor, reduce air
pollution, kill disease-causing bacteria, and improve water quality.

While the benefits are
clear, there’s no arguing that anaerobic digester systems are a large
investment. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) offers several programs that can help with the cost of an
anaerobic digester, including the new Conservation Loan program, the Rural
Energy for America Program (REAP)
, the Value-Added
Producer Grant
, and the 
Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). USDA can even help with
the cost of an energy audit/feasibility study to help producers determine if a
digester makes sense for their operation. The multiple benefits for farmers,
rural America, and the environment ensure that these investments will result in
big payoffs.


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