Biogas Engines Generating Renewable Power From Cow Manure Methane

With the country working to develop cleaner, alternative energy sources, the U.S. dairy industry with sponsorship from GE Energy is convening the New York Dairy Power Summit in Syracuse, N.Y., this week. The summit brings together experts in dairy production, engineering, environmental science, financing, legislation and policy, and green energy business to accelerate opportunities for U.S. dairy farmers to use cow manure methane biogas to generate reliable, cost-effective renewable electricity.

Methane from manure is the second largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the fluid milk value chain while also representing a largely untapped source of renewable energy.

According to the New York State Department of Agriculture & Markets, the state has 6,200 dairy farms with more than 600,000 dairy cows, but only 10,000 cows are utilized in energy production through the use of 12 methane digesters that generate 1.3 megawatts. Manure from approximately 2,500 cows can produce electrical output of 500kW—enough to power roughly 200 homes.

“The Dairy Power Summit is designed to jumpstart the development of additional digester projects in New York by making a bold commitment to action and establishing an ambitious goal for anaerobic digester biogas-to-energy project development through 2020 and committing to a strategy to reach those targets,” said Roger George, general manager of GE Energy‘s gas engine business for North America. “New York’s dairy farmers have an opportunity to tap into a new source of revenue that will simultaneously help the state increase its renewable energy production and lower its greenhouse gas emissions.“

Based on what the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy learns in New York at the Dairy Power Summit, programs similar to the New York pilot project will be rolled out across the nation.

During the conference, GE Energy will showcase its Jenbacher biogas engine technology that utilizes digester methane biogas to generate electricity, which is used to support the farm’s onsite power requirements, as well as the regional grid, while helping to improve local air and water quality.

Coordinated by the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, the event near Syracuse, N.Y., will bring nearly 50 medium-to-large New York dairy farmers and well over 100 representatives from New York milk cooperatives, digester development companies, financial institutions, academia and local, state and federal governments to discuss ways to help New York increase the production of agricultural biogas.

According to the Innovation Center, the summit is part of its Dairy Power project, one of 12 projects that make up the U.S. dairy industry’s roadmap to reducing greenhouse gas emissions across the entire dairy supply chain. The Dairy Power project aims to establish a national model for using methane digesters on dairy farms as a means of creating electricity and thereby reducing a farm’s carbon footprint.

“We’ve estimated that this could generate $38 million in new revenue for dairy farmers around the country and offset 2 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e) annually by 2020,” said Rick Naczi, executive vice president at Dairy Management Inc., which manages the national dairy check off program on behalf of the nation’s dairy farmers. “Increased adoption of anaerobic digesters would not only expand local jobs and strengthen local economies, but move the U.S. toward creating a more sustainable food system."

The dairy industry has committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2020, which is equivalent to removing 1.25 million passenger cars off the road every year. For more information, visit

Under New York’s “45 by 15” program, the state plans to receive 45 percent of its energy through energy efficiency and the production of renewable energy, including from digester biogas, by 2015.

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