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anaerobic digester

California's Clean Energy Pioneers Come in Black and White

California has a pioneering spirit. Rural folks there have been on the frontier for generations. That frontier may have been gold mines and cattle grasslands in the past, but today that frontier is the very air, soil and water of California itself. Climate change is transforming California like it’s transforming our globe. But Californians are leading the pioneer charge to transform, with pragmatism, ingenuity and a commitment to rural communities.

Just recently, I visited a small dairy farm in Elk Grove, California, the site of an anaerobic digester. Case Van Steyn’s operation of around 700 cows produces manure, and the Maas Energy digester, secluded in an unobtrusive red shipping container, uses the manure to produce methane. That methane creates enough electricity to power 125 homes—and enough to sell electricity back to the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, or SMUD.

Secretary's Column: Energy Efficiency and the Food, Farm and Jobs Bill

This week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced more than 630 new projects across the country under the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP).  These new projects will help producers and businesses boost their bottom line, while increasing America’s energy security and protecting our environment.

Energy efficiency programs are a key part of the President’s overall plan to mitigate the impacts of a changing climate, while building our renewable energy capacity to support an all-of-the-above approach to America’s energy future.

Under the Obama Administration, USDA has used this program to support more than 7,000 energy efficiency projects. Many of these provided assistance on small and medium-sized farm and ranches, or in rural businesses.

Hundreds Learn About Biodigester Energy Options at a Wisconsin Seminar

Hundreds of people, over the web or in person, learned about the financing and technology of anaerobic digester systems, the subject of a pair of webinars recently hosted at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  A broad spectrum of individuals participated including academics, farmers, and representatives of the environmental community.

USDA Encourages Farmers, Developers and Business Leaders to Learn How Anaerobic Digesters Can Reduce Pollution, Cut Energy Costs and Diversify Income

In 2009, during climate change talks in Copenhagen, Denmark, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack signed a historic “Memorandum of Understanding” with dairy producers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from farms by capturing methane with enhanced manure management practices and turning it into electricity.

While much has been done to encourage deployment of anaerobic digester technology in the United States, more needs to be accomplished, and with that in mind, USDA will join with the Farm Foundation, NFP, the AgStar Program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, and the Wisconsin Bioenergy Initiative of the University of Wisconsin to hold webinars from the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus later this month.

Anaerobic Digesters Are the Sweet Smell of Success

New Mexico is one of several states to participate in building anaerobic digesters, which use manure as fuel to create energy. The goal is to construct them over a four-year period, through USDA’s Rural Development, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Farm Service Agency (FSA).

On October 26, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced funding for 19 biodigester projects in 8 states, funded through USDA Rural Development’s Rural Energy for America Program. In Fiscal Year 2011, USDA, through the REAP program, provided nearly $21 million in assistance for biodigesters, and leveraged over $110 million in project development. Through its Value-Added Producer Grant program, USDA provides planning grants of up to $100,000 and working capital grants of up to $300,000 to be used for establishment of a biodigester. Additionally, NRCS offers financial and technical assistance through the Environmental Quality Incentives (EQIP) program.

Pennwood Farms Watches Electricity and Bedding Costs Disappear

Tucked away in the hillsides of Somerset County, Pennwood Farms is seeing great results from its new methane digester. The 600-cow dairy farm is owned by four brothers who installed the digester in April of this year with the help of a $264,450 USDA Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) loan, a $264,574 REAP grant and $475,274 in PA Energy Development Authority funding. The digester produces biogas to power a 180-kilowatt engine-generator, providing more than enough electricity to meet the farm’s needs. In addition to electricity, the digester also produces fertilizer and cow bedding, saving the farm over $60,000 per year in bedding costs.

Rural Development’s REAP loan and grant to Pennwood Farms are excellent examples of funding that contributes to making farm operations more energy efficient and economical. This funding for renewable energy projects helps rebuild and revitalize rural America.

Rural Business Administrator Tours Renewable Energy, Regional Food Projects in Massachusetts

USDA Rural Business Administrator Judy Canales joined State Director Jay Healy recently for discussions about, and tours of, three Rural Development financed projects currently underway in Massachusetts.   Their first stop was at Berkshire East Ski Area in Charlemont, where the Administrator led a roundtable discussion about USDA’s renewable energy initiatives and celebrated the installation of a new, 900kW wind turbine at the ski area.

Rural Development provided Berkshire East a loan guarantee through its Rural Energy for America Program (REAP).  The funds were used, in conjunction with commercial financing through Greenfield Savings Bank and State Clean Energy Center grants, to purchase and install the wind turbine at the family-owned ski area.

USDA Offers Funding To Help Farmers Turn Manure into Energy

Right now, across the country, innovative agricultural producers are turning farm animal manure into renewable energy through a process called anaerobic digestion. Anaerobic digestion is a proven technology – available to farmers today – that represents a huge economic opportunity for rural America, while simultaneously addressing our nation's energy and climate challenges.  This technology utilizes bacteria that breakdown waste and produce a biogas that contains methane and carbon dioxide. The biogas is then captured and used as a source of renewable energy, primarily by combusting the gas to generate electricity.