California cows a new alternative power source
"With nearly two million dairy cows in California, there is great potential for the state's agriculture and power sectors to work together to address the challenges of climate change," said Roy Kuga, vice president of energy supply at PG&E. "This project is yet another example of our company's commitment to add innovative forms of clean renewable energy to help meet our customers' future power needs."
Under a long-term contract approved by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), BioEnergy Solutions will deliver up to three billion cubic feet of renewable natural gas a year to PG&E.
A BioEnergy Solutions system reduces emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide, by 70 per cent on a 5,000-cow dairy.
"We have developed an innovative way to bring dairies and power companies together to generate a new source of green energy for California," David Albers, president of BioEnergy Solutions, said. "Using proven technologies, we design, build and operate highly-efficient biogas systems that enable dairymen to meet new air quality requirements and help utilities meet their goals for the production of energy from renewable sources."
Vintage Dairy, the site of BioEnergy Solution's first project, is located near the town of Riverdale in western Fresno County, California. Manure from the dairy's 5,000 milk-producing cows and calves is flushed into a covered lagoon – equal in size to the area of nearly five football fields and over three stories deep – that traps the methane gas produced as the manure decomposes. The methane is upgraded, or "scrubbed," to remove corrosive materials to meet PG&E's industry-leading environmental standards for power plants and then delivered to PG&E through the utility's pipeline. PG&E uses the natural gas to deliver renewable electricity to its customers in central and northern California.
BioEnergy Solutions is based in Bakersfield and was founded by David Albers, a third-generation dairyman who also owns Vintage Dairy. The company installs at its own expense the infrastructure needed to collect and process the manure and then pump the gas into PG&E's pipeline. BioEnergy also shares the proceeds from the sale of gas and resulting emissions credits with dairy owners.
PG&E is a leader in utilising biogas. In addition to the utility's contract with BioEnergy Solutions, PG&E is working to cultivate the next generation of biogas technologies through its biomethanation research project. This recently launched project explores emerging biomethanation technologies and processes that may increase conversion efficiency, expand the range of usable feedstocks and improve the quality of biomethane products.
PG&E expects to have 14 per cent of its energy from renewable sources that qualify under California's Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) Program in 2008. On average, more than 50 per cent of the energy PG&E delivers comes from carbon-free sources, and the utility now has contracts to provide 20 per cent of its future energy supply from renewable sources. Qualifying renewable sources in PG&E's portfolio include solar, wind, biomass, geothermal, and small hydroelectric.
Since July 2007, PG&E has signed renewable energy contracts totaling 1,024 MW, including 57 MW of new geothermal energy with Calpine Corporation, 553 MW of solar thermal with Solel-MSP-1, 85 MW of wind power from PPM Energy, two MW of wave energy with Finavera Renewables, 177 MW of solar thermal with Ausra Inc., and 150 MW of wind energy with enXco. PG&E is still seeking regulatory approval for the Calpine, Finavera, Ausra and enXco contracts.
California's Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) Program requires each utility to increase its procurement of eligible renewable generating resources by one percent of load per year to achieve a 20 percent renewables goal by 2010. The RPS Program was passed by the Legislature and is managed by the CPUC and California Energy Commission.