Publication educates about AD on Minnesota farms

By Lisa Gibson | March 02, 2011

The Midwest holds enormous untapped potential for anaerobic digestion (AD) systems, and a new publication seeks to educate farmers and the general public of that potential on Minnesota farms.

Anaerobic Digestion: Farm Opportunities and Pathways” aims to help interested stakeholders become familiar with the anaerobic digestion industry, according to The Minnesota Project, which published the guide. The 18-page document includes discussion about the different kinds of anaerobic digesters available, the economic and environmental benefits AD can provide, and a guide to evaluating digestion opportunities for individual farm scenarios.

Minnesota has five anaerobic digesters producing 4,084 megawatt hours of electricity annually, according to the guide. In the entire United States, electricity from biogas accounts for less than one-half of a percent of total energy consumption. “So, while early efforts in anaerobic digester implementation are encouraging, a great deal of expansion potential remains,” the guide says.

Employing an AD facility on a farm produces several benefits including odor control and stabilized waste products, as well as economic benefits such as cogeneration.

Chapter 4 discusses the evaluation of on-farm AD feasibility including factors such as farm size, manure handling, gas use, additional cost savings and time commitment. It also touches on project development and suggests that hiring a consultant or project developer is often worthwhile. The guide also communicates the importance of a power purchase agreement, saying contacting a local utility should be done immediately after, if not before, contacting a project developer. All electric utilities in Minnesota are required to meet a 25 percent renewable electricity mandate by 2025, so many utilities, but not all, are willing to pay a slightly higher rate for electricity produced by renewable projects, it says.

The document addresses business plans, costs and available funding opportunities, as well. “This publication educates with the hope that a more informed public will begin to take a harder look into the development of the anaerobic digester industry in Minnesota,” The Minnesota Project says.