Along with other alternative energies, renewable methane could reduce the demand for natural gas, and forestall the potential danger to water supplies posed by unsafe natural gas drilling operations, it is felt.
The statewide methane biogas project was kick-started this fall at New York State's Dairy Power Summit.
The Summit, held Oct. 29 and 30, 2009, in Syracuse, N.Y., brought together more than 200 New York dairy farmers and industry stakeholders from across the country to discuss the potential for dairy-supplied renewable energy.
Summit attendees set a 2020 goal that 40 percent of all manure from New York dairy farms goes through the anaerobic digestion process, which captures methane from manure and generates clean, renewable energy. The energy produced from this effort could power 32,000 homes while strengthening the economic vitality of New York's dairy farms. It also would reduce New York's greenhouse gas emissions by 500,000 metric tons of carbon, equivalent to taking 100,000 cars off the road.
The Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, with sponsorship from GE Energy, coordinated the Dairy Power Summit in order to identify and act on opportunities to increase the economic viability and adoption rate of anaerobic digesters. Participants represented dairy farms; utilities; milk cooperatives; digester developers; financial institutions; academia; and local, state and federal governments.
"The Dairy Power Summit is an outstanding effort on the part of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, as we try to reduce the methane emissions and enable farmers to use cleaner, renewable energy sources, and as we go forward in our attempt to green our environment, to green our economy, and also to create economic development for our farmers," said New York Gov. David A. Paterson in a video address to summit attendees.
New York State Agriculture Commissioner Patrick Hooker said, "The action items developed by the many stakeholders at the Dairy Power Summit will ensure that our dairy farms and rural communities will play an active role in New York's cleaner and greener environment. The future is bright for on-farm generation of renewable energy, and I look forward to assisting the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy in achieving the goals set at the summit."
While the summit primarily focused on anaerobic digester opportunities in the state of New York, these pilot projects could lead to solutions for farms and communities across the country.
"We envision a possible future made up of bioenergy communities, where farms produce the majority of the locally consumed food and energy; conserve water, habitat and open space; and provide recreational and educational opportunities to the local community and beyond," said Skip Hardie, one of the owners of Hardie Farms in Lansing, N.Y. "As the heart of the community, farms are creating jobs, enhancing the environment and improving quality of life."