Merced dairy turning cow manure into renewable energy

MERCED, Calif. (KFSN) -- It's a smelly situation.

A Merced dairy is converting cow waste into renewable energy. Eileen Martinho works for Maas Energy Works and tells us how it's done.

"This is a dairy digester cluster project, where each dairy is a digester on their facility," she said. "Then, they are sending methane gas from their digester, which is the purpose of the digester, is to collect the methane gas off of the manure."

After the manure is collected from thousands of cows, a special contraption called a Digester is used to help create renewable natural gas or "biomethane" before it's sent back through a pipeline to one central location.

Local dairy producer Alex Dejager was hesitant when he was first approached about this project, not knowing the benefits or what it would turn into almost two years later.

"Maas Energy came to us, basically knocked on our door and said we have a big dream of doing a project out here to capture emissions from 15,16 different dairies in one little area, pipeline it all to on essential area and basically move that gas to PG&E, and we kind of all laughed at him," he said.

Approximately 55 percent of California's methane emissions come from dairies and livestock and after learning more about the good this project can bring, Dejager quickly became involved and he believes more California farmers will have to do the same to stay financially sustainable.

"If you think of one milking cow, it equates to taking one car off the road each year," Martinho said.

Although this natural gas will be cleaner, the cost of energy is not expected to decrease anytime soon.

"In general, we are trying to lower the cost of the rates for our customers, RNG and this type of project is going to make it more efficient for us to develop cleaner fuels in the future," says Janisse Quinonez with PG&E.
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