New York recently made available $21 million to help the state’s dairy farmers convert farm waste to energy.
Most of the funding — $20 million — is available through New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) to install anaerobic digester technology that produces renewable biogas used to generate electricity and heat from organic wastes. Food processing manufacturers, farms or municipal wastewater sites would be eligible for up to $2 million per project.
The remaining $1 million is marked for the Dairy Acceleration Program (DAP). Under DAP, payments may include up to $5,000 per farm to write a business plan or develop a combination of a business and facility growth plan; and up to $4,500 to update an existing comprehensive nutrient management plan (CNMP) or $6,000 to create a new one.
Extra funds also will be available to design farm practices described in CNMP — conservation systems for animal feeding operations designed to address soil erosion and water quality concerns. The CNMP covers the storage and handling of manure as well as using and applying manure nutrients on farmland.
The dairy industry is slowly tuning into the benefits of technologies such as anaerobic digestion to reduce farms' ecological footprints. For example, Bakerview EcoDairy in British Columbia and Straus Creamery in Petaluma, Calif., use the technology to turn the methane gas released from cow manure into electricity. About 65 percent of cow manure is composed of methane, making it an abundant energy resource. Over the course of a year, Bakerview EcoDairy says it is able to offset a third of the energy needed to operate the farm, thanks to the digester and a small herd of 50 cows.
Earlier this month, New York City Deputy Mayor Cas Holloway announced a pilot program that will convert the thousands of pounds of food waste currently shipped to out-of-state landfills into biogas, which will heat up to 5,200 homes throughout the city and help curb roughly 90,000 metric tons of the state’s annual greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The program is part of the city’s PlaNYC goal of reducing the city’s GHG emissions by 30 percent by 2017.