Cow Power

Transforming Greenhouse Gases into Renewable Energy

Converting cow manure into renewable energy prevents harmful methane from reaching the atmosphere. This is important because methane on dairy farms accounts for the majority of agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions. If methane digesters were installed on most California dairies, they would protect the climate as much as taking more than one million cars off the road — about 5% of the state’s total.

The good news is that methane from dairy manure can be captured and converted into energy using existing technologies. The resulting biogas can be used to create:

  • Renewable electricity
  • Renewable vehicle fuel (biomethane)
  • Renewable natural gas that can be can be injected into existing pipelines for a wide range of uses (heating, power plants).

Electricity from methane digesters on dairy farms can be used on site (thereby reducing the farmer’s energy costs), and the surplus can be sold to a public or private utility. The electricity can replace some power from fossil-fuel plants, which account for approximately 20% of California’s greenhouse gas emissions.

The biogas from methane digesters can be refined to produce vehicle fuel, known as biomethane or “cow power.” The manure on California dairies could produce enough biomethane to power more than 100,000 vehicles. Dairy digesters can also reduce the risk of excess manure nutrients polluting waterways, including groundwater.

Our Role

Sustainable Conservation has been promoting methane digesters on California dairies for more than 10 years as a way to reduce harmful greenhouse gases, generate renewable energy to power farms and the state’s economy, and promote a healthy climate.

Sustainable Conservation was a catalyst and guide for putting the first “cow-powered” truck on the road in California’s Central Valley. We:

Impact

  • Our work has resulted in the generation of enough clean, renewable energy to power more than 3,000 homes and offset $2 million in energy costs to farmers each year
  • Between 2003-2010, we reduced California agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions by 12,000 tons — equivalent to taking 40,000 cars off the road
KQED Video about Cow Power

KQED – “From Waste to Watts”

KQED - Sustainable Conservation partner, John Fiscalini, talks about how he's turning methane gas produced by his cows into energy.

KQED – Sustainable Conservation partner, John Fiscalini, talks about how he’s turning methane gas produced by his cows into energy.

Highlights

Partners

Biodiesel Industries

California Dairy Quality Assurance Program

California Air Resources Board

California Dairy Campaign

California Department of Transportation

California Department of Water Resources

California State University, Fresno – California Agricultural Technology Institute

California State Water Resources Control Board

Castelanelli Brothers Dairy

Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board

Crowell Dairy Farm

Extengine transport Systems

Fiscalini Farms

Joseph gallo Farms

Hilarides Dairy

Milk Producers Council

Olsen-Ecologic Engine Testing Laboratories

RCM Digesters

Sacramento Municipal Utilities District

San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District

San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Organization

Tollenaar Dairy

US Environmental Protection Agency, Region 9

Western United Dairymen

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