Bloom Energy and California ag venture plan to convert cow poop to electricity

Bloom Energy and California Bioenergy (CalBio) announced a collaboration that uses both companies’technology for the conversion of dairy waste into renewable electricity.

CalBio’s dairy digester technology combined with Bloom Energy’s solid oxide fuel cell technology captures methane and generates renewable electricity, according to a release. Bloom’s fuel cells are assembled at its Newark site.

In integrating theirtechnologies, the two companies have created the world’s first commercial solution to generate electricity from dairy waste to power electric vehicles.

Today, most California dairies are making plans to install digesters to capture biogas from their cow manure and are looking for a cleaner way to utilize this fuel. Biogas captured from cow manure contains approximately 65 percent methane, which has a 25 times greater impact on global warming than CO2 emissions and accounts for 10 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions but is also a useful, renewable fuel.

The CalBio-Bloom Energy system also removes methane that would otherwise have been released into the atmosphere.

CalBio digesters capture biogas, primarily consisting of methane, released from the decomposition of dairy manure. CalBio’s technology also separates hydrogen sulfide from the biogas.

The biogas is then converted to renewable electricity in a Bloom Energy Server.

Bloom says the most efficient use of energy from the system would come from charging electric vehicles.

For example, at night, California draws the largest portion of its electricity from burning natural gas or from imported power, including coal, so EV charging may not be earth friendly. An EV network buying electricity from a CalBio-Bloom Energy dairy project will be able to provide customers renewable electricity, Bloom stated in a release.

According to Bloom, 320 megawatts of economically viable dairy biogas are available in California.

With deployments of dairy digesters in the California dairy industry, Bloom fuel cells would make a difference in providing renewable power, the release stated.

The state of California has set ambitious goals to reduce all greenhouse gas emissions, including methane.

Both small and large dairies deploying the new CalBio-Bloom Energy biogas solution will be eligible to apply for state grants.

California’s Central Valley, and especially the San Joaquin Valley, where many dairies are located, has some of the worst air quality in the United States, as well as the highest rates of childhood asthma in California, Bloom stated.

“Our California dairy families play a critical role in producing nutritious, high-quality milk and dairy products, while, at the same time, engaging in air, water, and environmental sustainability efforts,” said Karen Ross, secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture. “This is a great example of the partnerships needed to advance technologies from the Silicon Valley and agriculturally rich Central Valley in order to move the needle further in renewable energy from dairies.”

Founded in 2006, CalBio has worked closely with the dairy industry and state agencies to develop programs to help the state achieve its methane reduction goals while delivering, a new revenue source to California dairies and clean air for the San Joaquin Valley.

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