Grant To Make Refuse Useful

Grant money may be available for local dairy farmers to install state-of-the-art equipment to turn waste into energy.

On Jan 17, $20 million became available through the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority for farms to install anaerobic digester technology.

According to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, farms, food processors and municipal wastewater sites will be eligible for up to $2 million per project from the grant.

Anaerobic digesters turn waste into energy by utilizing bacteria which break down dairy manure pumped into large tanks. The bacteria give off a methane-rich gas, which can be burned to produce electricity and heat, and a nutrient-rich effluent that can be used as fertilizer.

According to Richard Kimball, Chautauqua County Farm Bureau president, it is possible that some farmers in the county could benefit from the grant.

“Some people could benefit from it, but they’d need to have a larger farm,” Kimball said.

He said that along with providing energy to help power a farm, anaerobic digesters can provide an excess of power that can be sold back to the grid for profit.

However, the economic viability of anaerobic digesters is far from certain.

According to Kimball, besides needing a large farm – 300 cattle or more – the price offered for selling extra power back to the grid is not necessarily worth the costs.

“Power companies don’t always want to pay for it,” Kimball said, referencing the low amounts power companies have paid for selling power to the grid in the past.

Kimball also said that to his knowledge, there is only be one anaerobic digester in the county.

This waste-to-energy grant follows Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s announcing $500,000 available to help municipalities protect farmland in December. According to the press release, municipalities can apply for grants up to $15,000 to amend local laws to protect farmland from being used for non-agricultural purposes.

“Agriculture is an essential part of this state’s economy, feeding millions of families and providing a way of life for generations of New Yorkers,” Cuomo said in the release.