Renewable energy advocates want to boost the use of biogas

Oct 24, 2017

As New York State moves toward its goal of getting 50 percent of the state’s energy from renewable sources by 2030, much of the focus is on wind and solar energy. But there’s another energy source out there that boosters want to shine a light on.

Pulling methane gas from cow manure and other organic matter has been going on for years. But in order to get biogas to the next level as a source of renewable energy, it needs to become more economically viable.

“There needs to be some incentives [in the] early days, so that the producers of renewable gas can either sell it directly to the utility, or produce electricity, or use it for fuel at prices that are economical.  So it’s all about economics at the end of the day,” said Bob Catell, chair of the Energy Research Center at Stony Brook University.

Catell says small anaerobic digesters, airtight containers that let bacteria create a clean form of energy, are becoming more readily available for farmers, which makes a focus on using digester technology in the state’s agricultural sector a natural fit.  

That’s where the state needs to take action, according to Rick Zimmerman of the New York Cow Power Coalition. 

“To make this a viable enterprise for the dairy industry,” said Zimmerman. “That takes some renewed focus from a public policy standpoint to do so.”

Zimmerman says New York is lagging behind other states like California, Massachusetts and Connecticut in corralling this bio-gas in an agricultural setting. As far as utilities go, they are on board because it’s a source of energy that is locally produced.

“This is just as important as solar, just as important as wind. We need to put it all under the banner of renewable energy,” said Melanie Littlejohn, vice president of customer & community management at National Grid.