Bioenergy and its byproducts – biochar or digestate – can reduce powerful Short-Lived Climate Pollutants and restore carbon to the soil, which are two of most urgent steps needed to reverse climate change. An important study just released by Lawrence Berkeley National Lab shows that the biochar and digestate produced as a byproduct of bioenergy, can provide half or more of all the carbon needed to return California’s natural and working lands to net carbon sinks. This is a critical piece of California’s overall climate strategy and the study by LBNL shows that biochar and digestate can provide a really significant part of the solution.
California Bioenergy and Bloom Energy have announced a collaboration to convert dairy waste into renewable electricity without combustion. CalBio’s dairy digester technology with Bloom Energy’s solid oxide fuel cell technology will capture dairy methane and use it to generate renewable electricity that will power electric vehicles (EVs) throughout California. The CalBio-Bloom Energy solution not only produces clean electricity, it also removes methane that would otherwise have been released into the atmosphere. Capturing and utilizing waste methane is a powerful way to positively and quickly impact climate change.
How It Works
CalBio digesters capture biogas, primarily consisting of methane, released from the anaerobic decomposition of dairy manure. CalBio’s technology also separates hydrogen sulfide from the biogas. The biogas is then converted to renewable electricity in a Bloom Energy Server through an electrochemical process. The Bloom Energy Server is the world’s most efficient electricity generator. It produces twice as much electricity as conventional combustion generators using the same amount of biogas. Once generated, all of the renewable electricity can be transmitted via the electric grid to EV charging stations throughout California.
Today, emissions generated by EV charging vary according to when EVs are plugged in to charge. For example, at night, California draws the largest portion of its electricity from burning natural gas or from imported power, including coal, so EV charging may not be very clean at all. Going forward, any EV network buying electricity from a CalBio-Bloom Energy dairy project will be able to provide their customers renewable electricity.
There is an estimated 320 megawatts of economically viable dairy biogas in California. With significant deployments of dairy digesters occurring throughout the California dairy industry, there is need for an on-site power generation solution that uses the captured biogas to generate renewable electricity without combustion.
Greenhouse Gas Emission Reduction in California
The state of California has set ambitious goals to reduce all greenhouse gas emissions, including methane. In order to advance these goals, the state provides grants and sets policy through the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA). Both small and large dairies deploying the new CalBio-Bloom Energy biogas solution will be eligible to apply for CDFA grants. CARB’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS), meanwhile, creates value for low carbon fuels, enabling EV charging operators to buy the renewable energy credits generated by dairy farmers to meet carbon reduction goals.
Air Quality Benefits
California’s Central Valley, and especially the San Joaquin Valley, where many dairies are located, has some of the worst air quality in the United States, as well as the highest rates of childhood asthma in California. Using fuel cells to generate electricity from dairy biogas, instead of combustion engines, eliminates smog-forming emissions, and improves air quality and public health. Charging more EVs with renewable electricity will contribute to air quality improvements throughout California, called for under the Governor’s Executive Order for five million zero-emission vehicles by 2030.
“The urgency of the fight against climate change and unhealthy air quality requires us to slash potent, super-pollutant emissions, including methane from agriculture, and get combustion out of our energy and transportation systems,” said Mary Nichols, chair of the California Air Resources Board. “This solution is a trifecta – slashing methane, avoiding combustion from electricity generation, and supporting our transition to electrified transportation.”
“Our California dairy families play a critical role in producing nutritious, high-quality milk and dairy products, while, at the same time, engaging in air, water, and environmental sustainability efforts,” said Karen Ross, secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture. “This is a great example of the partnerships needed to advance technologies from the Silicon Valley and agriculturally rich Central Valley in order to move the needle further in renewable energy from dairies.”
“While the San Joaquin Valley is already subject to the most stringent air quality regulations in the nation, innovative programs such as this, which assist in deploying the latest clean air technologies, play a vital role in addressing the Valley’s air quality challenges,” said Samir Sheikh, air pollution control officer and executive director for The San Joaquin Valley Unified Air Pollution Control District.
“In bringing together the best technology from Silicon Valley with the best technology from the Central Valley, we’re really doing something special for California,” said N. Ross Buckenham, CEO of CalBio. “With Bloom, we have found an ultra-clean “on-dairy” biogas system that can scale from small to large dairies, with attractive economics for capture and utilization of methane. We’ll create local jobs, generate income for dairy farmers, help the environment by reducing greenhouse gases and fossil fuel consumption and greatly improve local air quality.”
“To achieve its ambitious climate goals, California has to embrace every innovation that can make a difference in reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” said KR Sridhar, founder, chairman, and CEO of Bloom Energy. “We’re proud to be tackling both the causes and consequences of climate change through this innovative collaboration with CalBio, and through the clean energy that Bloom provides to California businesses every day.”
The University of California has announced an exciting partnership with Anaergia to buy $42 million worth of biogas from Anaergia’s Rialto facility in Southern California. The UC System is making the purchase as part of its plan to reach carbon neutrality – zero net carbon emissions – by mid century. When fully built, the Rialto biogas facility will be the largest organic waste to energy facility in the country and will help California to meet its landfill reduction, methane reduction and clean energy goals. Anaergia’s facility will cut greenhouse gas emissions by 220,000 metric tons per year, the equivalent of taking 46,700 cars off the road.
See the University of California announcement and a video about the project here.
As part of its Climate Smart Agriculture program, CDFA just announced $67 million in grant funding for 43 separate dairy digester projects. Together, the projects will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 7 million metric tons of CO2e emissions. Several of the projects are part of larger dairy digester clusters that will combine the biogas they produce at a single cleanup location and inject it into SoCalGas pipelines. Grant recipients include California Bioenergy and Calgren Dairy Fuels/Maas Energy.
The full list of grant recipients, their project descriptions, and the greenhouse gas reductions from each project is available on CDFA’s website.
BAC’s Executive Director, Julia Levin, wrote an article on why bioenergy is so important for California, published this spring in the Environmental Law News, a twice yearly publication of the California Lawyers Association. The article describes the importance of bioenergy for meeting California’s climate, air quality, and clean energy goals, the history of bioenergy in California, the obstacles, and what needs to be done to accelerate development of sustainable bioenergy.
Download the article here:
Congratulations to BAC members Camptonville Community Partnership, CLERE, Inc., and the Mariposa Biomass Project, which were among 39 projects around the country to receive Wood Innovation Grants from the U.S. Forest Service. The grants will help to develop much-needed forest biomass projects in local communities. These projects will help to reduce the risks and spread of wildfire, provide renewable energy, reduce air pollution and climate emissions from burning of forest waste, and increase community resilience by providing jobs and local energy supplies.
Click here to learn more about the projects and the grants.
California announced recently that it has met its 2020 climate target two years ahead of schedule. Buried in the announcement, however, is the disturbing news that greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector are continuing to go up. This important article by Cliff Gladstein of Gladstein, Neandross & Associates explains that the state’s nearly exclusive focus on electric vehicles puts the state’s long-term climate goals at risk and ignores the near-term opportunities to reduce climate and air pollution by using biogas in low-emission natural gas vehicles.
Read the full article here.
The California Department of Food and Agriculture just announced $69.9 million in awards to dairy digester projects that will convert methane from cow manure to carbon negative biogas for transportation fuel and pipeline biogas. According to the Legislative Analyst’s Office, these are some of the most cost-effective investments that the state can make in greenhouse gas reductions. They will also help to reduce pollution from dairies and from diesel-powered, heavy duty vehicles. This is a win-win for the climate and for Central Valley air quality.
To learn more about the awards and the projects, click here.
CalBio and Land O’Lakes are creating an innovative farmer-led model for “barn to biogas” that can shape nationwide solutions to agricultural methane emissions reduction and unlock new revenue streams for dairy farmers.CalBio provides the expertise needed to develop, execute and manage on-farm methane digesters, as well as market R-CNG credits in California, in a manner that is cost effective for farmers. This partnership with CalBio will also help Land O’Lakes dairy member-owners in California to meet new state standards that call for a 40 percent reduction in dairy and livestock manure-related methane emissions from 2013 levels by 2030.
“CalBio’s dairy digesters are proven in California. We are excited to expand that work even further through this collaboration with Land O’Lakes and their member-owners in California,” said Neil Black, president of CalBio. “Our expertise and ongoing operational support will help dairy farmers make the most of a significant new revenue stream through biogas generation, while allowing them to stay focused on doing what they do best – producing wholesome, delicious food in a sustainable way.”
Learn more about the CalBio partnership.
California has some of the strictest pipeline biogas requirements in the country, which can add significantly to the costs of pipeline biogas projects. As a result, the state enacted legislation in 2016 requiring the California Council on Science and Technology (CCST) to review the standards for the heating value (BTU) and siloxanes. The CCST report recommends that the CPUC consider reducing the BTU requirement to as low as 970. CCST recommends further study on the siloxanes standard and suggests that monitoring requirements be reduced for biogas sources that are unlikely to have siloxanes (diverted organic waste, dairy, forest and agricultural waste).
Click here to see the CCST study and executive summary.