Dairy Digester Research and Development Program: California Bioenergy

As a recipient of funding from both the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s Dairy Digester Research and Development Program and the California Public Utility Commission’s (CPUC) Dairy Biomethane Pilot Projects, California Bioenergy (CalBio) and its farm partners are committed to providing benefits to local communities along with the digester projects they build.

Isabel Lopez, CalBio’s first intern

Isabel Lopez, CalBio’s first intern

Rob Vandenheuvel, Senior Vice President of Member & Industry Relations at California Dairies, Inc., the largest dairy farmer-owned cooperative in California, has noted that, “Projects like CalBio’s digesters enable California’s dairy families to help advance the state’s environmental goals, while also creating new economic opportunities for local communities. CalBio’s projects generate critical additional revenues that are reinvested into job-supporting dairy farms and the communities that surround them.”

CalBio builds dairy methane pipeline injection projects where there is a cluster of dairies. The initial projects are in the southern San Joaquin Valley. These projects provide significant economic development by generating tax revenues and supporting jobs in engineering, construction and operations.

The digester projects provide substantial environmental benefits by improving local air quality. Replacing the open-air lagoons of waste with a covered lagoon digester reduces manure-related emissions. Also, utilizing the methane in near-zero emissions natural gas vehicles replaces diesel vehicles and reduces NOX emissions by an estimated 90%.

CalBio further advanced digester projects in 2018 by launching a collaboration with Land O’Lakes, Inc. to help California dairy farmer-members of the cooperative develop digesters. Matt Carstens, senior vice president of Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN, said, “CalBio has worked alongside our cooperative, and our dairy members in California, to advance ‘barn-to-biogas’ through close collaboration with California farm families.”

On the education front, CalBio and its farm partners are building relationships with College of the Sequoias (COS) serving Tulare and Kings counties, and California State University Bakersfield (CSU Bakersfield). The initiative includes classroom participation and internships as well as funding of academic research or scholarships. Programs focus on students, who are residents of the digester clusters and studying related areas.

At CSU Bakersfield, CalBio’s first intern was Isabel Lopez, a chemistry major. She worked with CalBio’s team performing daily digester rounds and conducting analytical testing to determine project performance. She also prepared data related to the quantification of GHG reductions. In addition, at CSU Bakersfield, CalBio will be funding student participation in academic research.

At COS, CalBio has committed to providing scholarships. Based on the CDFA and CPUC awarded projects, over thirty scholarships will be awarded. Louann Waldner, Provost, Tulare Center, College of Sequoias, who helped develop the program said, “We are delighted to partner with CalBio to bring financial assistance to our students. The program will help students further their education and develop real-world science skills while the projects will support local dairy farms.”