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CalBio Partners with Bloom Energy to Convert Dairy Waste to Power Without Combustion

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.

The Potential
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.

Executive Quotes
“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.”

CEC Adopts Clean Transportation Funding Program

The California Energy Commission has adopted a new Clean Transportation Funding Plan (formerly known as the ARFVTP or AB 118 program) for 2019-2020.  The overall funding remains at $100 million annually, but the CEC cut biofuels funding from $20 million to $10 million.  The biofuels funding is now limited to low carbon, waste-based fuels and renewable hydrogen.

To read the full plan, see CEC’s 2019-20 Clean Transportation Funding Plan.

Legislative Analyst Critiques State’s Transportation Climate Programs

In December 2018, the non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office released reports on the state’s climate change mitigation programs.  The reports noted a lack of coordination across programs, significant duplication, and a number of programs that are not cost-effective or effective at all.  The LAO singled out the state’s transportation programs in a stand-alone report that shows that most of the state’s programs are failing to show measurable progress, particularly the state’s investments in zero-emission vehicles.  The LAO report found that the only transportation sector that has made progress in reducing climate emissions is the heavy duty sector and that those are also the most cost-effective investments in climate and air pollution reductions.

Read the full report here: LAO climate-policies-transportation-122118

Biofuels Coalition Opposes LCFS Infrastructure Credit

In recent amendments to the Low Carbon Fuel Standard, the California Air Resources Board has proposed giving Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) credit to hydrogen and electric vehicle fueling stations, whether or not they provide low carbon fuels and regardless of the carbon intensity of the hydrogen or power provided.  BAC and other biofuels producers submitted a joint letter objecting to this proposal as it would undercut the core strength of the LCFS program, which is based solely on the lifecycle carbon intensity of fuels.  Picking technology winners and losers takes away the performance (science) based foundation of the LCFS program and makes if far less likely to achieve the state’s carbon and petroleum reduction goals.

See Biofuels Coalition letter on LCFS

GNA Article on Need for Biogas to Reduce Vehicle Emissions

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.

California Bioenergy, Land O’Lakes Partner to Advance “Barn to Biogas” in California

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.

BAC Comments on Proposed LCFS Changes

BAC provided comments on several of the proposed changes to the LCFS that would adversely affect the instate biomethane industry, including a proposed reduction in the 2020 target, proposed change to biomethane that would require it to meet pipeline standards whether or not it will be injected into a utility pipeline, carbon intensities for temporary fuel pathways that are much higher than the actual carbon intensities for biomethane projects, and other changes.

See BAC Comments on Proposed LCFS changes

Air Resources Board Proposes LCFS Amendments

Thee California Air Resources Board has proposed major changes to the Low Carbon Fuel Standard, including changes to the 2020 and 2030 targets for carbon intensity, changes to the definition of “biomethane,” temporary carbon intensity levels for various types of fuels, and other changes that could have major impacts on biomethane development in California.

See ARB Proposed Amends to LCFS Rules

ARB Proposal for Low Carbon Transportation Funding

In February, the California Air Resources Board released staff proposals on how ARB would spend the proposed $363 million in Low Carbon Transportation funding (from Cap and Trade revenues) if the Legislature approves the funding later this year.  The staff proposals include funding plans for Low Carbon Fuels and for Heavy Duty Vehicles.  ARB is holding workshops in March to discuss the draft plans.  Details about the workshops are available on ARB’s website.  The staff drafts are below.

ARB staff presentation on Low Carbon Transpo Investments (Feb2017)

ARB HDV 3-year funding plan (Feb2017)

BAC Comments on Transportation Plan for 2030 GHG Reductions

The California Air Resources Board has developed a draft plan for reducing climate pollution from the transportation sector.  BAC’s comments on the draft plan focus on the need for greater transparency, specific goals for large trucks that cause a disproportionate share of emissions, focus on lifecycle emissions, and incentives for the most cost-effective emissions reductions.

See BAC Comments on 2030 SP Update (Transportation)