Market Opportunities Opening for Cow Power

US - Talk to any California dairy farmer who has ever ventured into "cow power" and he will likely have war stories and battle scars to share about the difficult endeavor.
calendar icon 23 July 2009
clock icon 1 minute read

The idea itself was simple: Trap the gas from cow manure, thereby cutting greenhouse gas emissions, and turn it into usable energy, writes Ching Lee, assistant editor of the Californian Farm Bureau Federation. According to his article, over the years a number of dairies throughout the state have installed methane digesters, only to face a barrage of regulatory obstacles bringing their projects online and keeping them online.

Despite these headaches, dairy farmers have not given up on cow power, even as they struggle through one of their darkest economic periods in recent history.

Until recent legislative changes, dairies had no way of selling any excess power they were producing back to the grid, as utilities were not required to pay for it. Without compensation and a marketing outlet, Albers said, digester projects tend to be economically infeasible because they are costly to build and often produce way more power than a dairy needs.

A new state law requiring utilities to buy 20 per cent of their power from renewable sources by 2010 has helped to open some doors, he acknowledged.

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