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New York dairy farmers eligible for bio-energy funds

New York dairy farmers convert farm waste to energy.
New York dairy farmers convert farm waste to energy.Mark Butkus

A major energy initiative that helps New York state dairy farmers reduce rising energy costs was bolstered with new funding this week. The Anaerobic Digester Biogas-to-Electricity Program (ADG) will now double the maximum financial incentive from $1 million to $2 million for farmers who install the infrastructure necessary for the conversion of cow manure into renewable energy.

As the second leading state in the country operating anaerobic digesters, New York and its dairy farmers have proven, that together, they are willing to embrace renewable energy technologies. Technologies that help improve the bottom line while preserving the integrity of their processes.

Administered by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), the ADG program has supported the development of 18 projects to date that are now fully functional. In the last decade NYSERDA and the New York Power Authority have awarded nearly $30 million toward anaerobic digester projects. This week's announcement adds $20 million in new funding.

An additional 17 projects, now in the design stage, have already applied for incentives. The increased cap should allow for more proposed anaerobic digester projects while spurring demand among New York dairy farmers.

Garry Brown, Chairman of the Public Service Commission, which authorized the funding increase, said in a media release, “Given current economic conditions and the expiration of federal grant programs, it makes sense to allow NYSERDA to adjust State program incentives, within its defined budget, to maintain momentum in the deployment of renewable energy projects.”

The steps to create biogas is straightforward. Manure and other organic farm waste are pumped into digestion tanks where a natural process converts a portion of the organic carbon in manure into methane gas. The gas produced from the anaerobic digestion of manure can then be used for heat production in barns, to power generators or to generate electricity used in the dairy. By producing electricity onsite, the digesters help offset a farm’s electricity purchases from their utility thereby reducing their energy costs. Other benefits of anaerobic digestion of manure include a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and a substantial odor reduction.

It was also announced that the Dairy Acceleration Program has $450,000 available in grants to access technical programs and coordinate funding for farmers interested in improving the efficiency of their dairy operations. The program will provide grants of up to $5,000 per qualifying dairy farm.