The New York State Energy and Research Development Authority (NYSERDA) recently announced that $19M is available to accelerate the use of anaerobic digester projects and clean energy technologies to make farm operations more energy efficient. The use of clean energy technologies and practices represent major cost savings opportunities for farms and supports Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s ambitious clean energy goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent by 2030.
Alicia Barton, President and CEO, NYSERDA, said, “Throughout New York’s history, farms have played a critical role in sustaining the nourishment and health of our families and communities. Governor Cuomo’s emphasis on providing funding to help bridge the gap between the agricultural sector and energy efficiency will help farms across the state reduce their energy usage while continuing to provide environmental benefits for their local communities.”
NYSERDA is offering $16M to accelerate the anaerobic digester sector. An anaerobic digester system is a renewable energy source that can reduce costs for a facility by using waste materials as fuel to generate electricity at the same location that it is used. Anaerobic digesters may also hold promise for the creation of renewable natural gas as a clean source of fuel. Anaerobic digester systems can be used on farms, waste water treatment plants, and as stand-alone systems to treat food wastes. They are fueled by gas from the processing of biomass feedstocks such as manure, agricultural waste, food waste, and other wastes.
Of the $16M, nearly half is for proposals to install new anaerobic digester systems in ways that demonstrate replicable business models or strategies to expand the anaerobic digestor marketplace. These proposals must describe how their projects will improve the marketplace for anaerobic digestion technology. The remaining funds will be used to cost-share the refurbishment of existing digesters and associated equipment to extend their useful lifespans as well as for projects that will improve the capabilities of the anaerobic digestion marketplace.
An additional $3M is being offered for the Advancing Agriculture Energy Technologies initiative to accelerate commercially available technologies and practices to make a farm operation more energy efficient. Under this initiative, proposals for emerging technologies should be replicable and provide cost-effective energy efficiency improvements to farms in New York State. Eligible technologies and practices include hardware, software, and operational strategies. Selected technologies and practices will be demonstrated on host site farms to increase awareness in the agricultural industry about these processes.
To increase the likelihood of new energy efficient applications, a team approach is strongly encouraged. Eligible team members could include developers, manufacturers, farm owners, universities and other academic institutions, trade or professional organizations, and utilities. The goal is to increase the number of farms adopting emerging energy efficient technologies and to increase communication and market awareness of clean energy technologies for the agriculture sector.
NYSERDA and the Department of Agriculture and Markets collaborate on the Clean Energy for Agriculture Task Force, an assembly of farmers, universities, agriculture organizations, and others to help identify and prioritize clean energy opportunities for New York State’s agriculture sector. In March 2017, the Task Force announced its Strategic Plan, which identified initiatives to cut energy costs and accelerate the use of clean energy by more than 35,000 farms across the state. This funding supports the Strategic Plan.
State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, “Clean energy is our future and it is critical we continue to identify new ways to harness these opportunities to power our farms. Thanks to Governor Cuomo’s leadership, New York continues to lead the nation in environmental sustainability initiatives such as this one that are helping our farms save money and become more energy efficient.”
These offerings are just one of many steps the state has taken to support clean energy on farms including the Agriculture Energy Audit Program which offers free energy audits to identify energy efficiency measures for eligible farms, including but not limited to, dairies, orchards, greenhouses, vegetables, vineyards, grain, and poultry or egg producers.
Agriculture covers approximately 25 percent of land use in New York State. Livestock and agricultural activities at New York’s farms account for nearly 3 percent of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions. Total energy use on farms accounts for approximately 9 percent of farm expenses (equal to about $450M in annual expenses). Greater use of clean energy practices by farms can further reduce their greenhouse gas impacts and energy costs while building on the state’s efforts to promote environmentally sustainable practices. As of the end of 2012, the most recent number available, there were 1,379 renewable energy systems on farms in New York. Of these, 23 have anaerobic digester gas systems that are operational with another seven in the process of being installed.
Today's announcement supports New York's nation-leading efforts to combat climate change as part of the U.S. Climate Alliance, a bipartisan coalition of 16 states and Puerto Rico committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and pursuing aggressive climate actions at the state level in light of the Trump Administration’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accords, to create an energy grid that can be relied on during severe weather events.
Senate Chair of the Legislative Commission on Rural Resources Senator Pam Helming (SD-54) said, "Anaerobic digesters play a crucial role throughout our farming communities, especially in the Finger Lakes region, where one-third of New York State's anaerobic digesters are located. Farmers rely on this technology to generate energy while limiting farm waste and protecting our precious water resources. It is imperative that we ensure the viability of these technologies and ensure that existing digesters remain active, as well as creating opportunities for new systems. As Senate Chair of the Legislative Commission on Rural Resources, I've been working hard with the Cow Power Coalition and Cornell Pro-Dairy to ensure that farmers with anaerobic digesters have the resources they need to continue to invest in this technology that protects our environment and maintains our water quality. I applaud the governor for his efforts on this issue and thank him for his timely commitment to ensure the continued viability of anaerobic digesters."
Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner said, “I would like to applaud the Governor and the action being taken by NYSERDA to promote clean energy production. Anaerobic digesters help reduce methane gas emissions and nutrient contamination of nearby water sources, as well as offsets reliance on fossil fuel generators. This will be particularly important to rural communities across Upstate New York.”
The funding is made available through the state’s 10-year, $5.3B Clean Energy Fund. More information about these two solicitations is available on NYSERDA’s website.