Anaerobic digester projects win Energy Vision Leadership Award

BTB’s expanded digester operation processes food waste, manure and other agricultural waste from around the region, producing an estimated 42 million kilowatt-hours of renewable power.

October 19, 2023

5 Min Read
BioTown Ag

At its 17th annual Leadership Awards event in Manhattan, the NGO Energy Vision recognized three renewable energy projects in the United States that reduce greenhouse gas emissions by converting organic wastes into clean, sustainable energy. This year’s winners are all anaerobic digester projects that process food and agricultural waste: BioTown Biogas, Dickinson College Farm and EMG International’s project for the beverage manufacturer American Fruits & Flavors.

BioTown Biogas, a partnership with Green Rock Energy Partners, expanded the existing anaerobic digester facility on BioTown Ag’s Reynolds, Indiana farm into one of the largest on-farm digester operations in the world.

“BioTown Ag is a multi-generational farm with a long track record of innovative, sustainable practices. We were early trailblazers in the realm of renewable energy production, having taken a bold step over a decade ago when we constructed what was then the largest on-farm digester in the United States,” said Chad Hoerr, BTB’s general manager, who accepted the award. "With the invaluable contributions of Green Rock Energy Partners, who brought their unique sustainable infrastructure expertise to the table, BioTown Biogas has successfully unlocked the site’s scalable potential. We’re proud to be recognized by Energy Vision as we continue to develop innovative ways for creating renewable energy by repurposing agricultural waste."

BTB’s expanded digester operation processes food waste, manure and other agricultural waste from around the region, producing an estimated 42 million kilowatt-hours of renewable power plus more than 3 million diesel-equivalent gallons of renewable natural gas (RNG) fuel each year.

"In terms of scale, the power generated at BTB is enough to supply energy for approximately 4,500 to 5,000 households within the vicinity," said Martin Mitchell, managing partner of Green Rock. "At Green Rock, our core principles are embodied in the three 'P’s': planet, people and profit. We remain dedicated to safeguarding the interests of our investors, fostering sustainable investments, promoting environmental justice, and reducing our carbon footprint. Within our vision, BTB represents the pinnacle of our efforts to advance these objectives. We view it as an exemplary model that we aim to replicate and expand upon."

While BTB is one of the largest anaerobic operations, Dickinson College Farm is building one of the smallest, both as a hands-on learning resource for Dickinson students and a replicable model for other small farms nationwide. The digester processes waste from a neighboring farm’s dairy cows, food waste from the college’s dining hall and local businesses, and spent grain from a local brewery. This eliminates farm runoff (the pristine Yellow Breeches Creek is nearby), avoids methane emissions, harnesses the biogas and generates renewable electricity to power the college farm and sell back to the grid.

“We're honored to be recognized by Energy Vision for our work bringing family farm biogas technology to life here in the U.S.,” said Matt Steiman, Dickinson College Farm’s Energy Projects manager, who accepted the award. “Prior to our project, the majority of biogas digesters in this country were built on much larger dairy farms. There are 5,000 dairy farms in Pennsylvania with an average size of 85-100 cows. There are also thousands of tons of recoverable food waste being landfilled in our state. Dairy and food waste are low-hanging fruit for climate change mitigation through conversion into renewable biogas. The technology we are piloting presents an important leap towards expanding renewable energy generation and greenhouse gas reduction on farms in the mid-Atlantic. Ours will be both a working system generating power for our farm and an additional 30 homes, as well as public-facing demonstration piece used for farmer and youth education. We'll consider our project successful when other small farms in our region adopt this technology.”

EMG International partnered with American Fruits & Flavors to install EMG’s PurEffluent system at AFF’s beverage factory in San Fernando, California, owned by Monster Energy, to treat its high-strength wastewater. EMG’s proprietary high-throughput system requiring a small-footprint, removes organics from the waste stream and uses them to generate biogas for renewable energy. It also reduces strain on the local municipal wastewater treatment plant and significantly reduces sewer surcharges.

“We thank Energy Vision for highlighting these projects tonight,” said Manaf Farhan, EMG International’s founder and CEO, accepting the award. “Our system at the AFF plant will remove over 1.8 million pounds of organic matter from the wastewater stream and prevent it from being discharged into the local sewer. It will produce approximately 16,000 MMBTUs of renewable energy a year. EMG and AFF are working to protect the environment, and if we all do our part, it will make a big difference overall.”

“In the past our process wastewater was treated for pH control and then discharged to the city sewers. We would periodically bring in tankers to pump the solids from our clarifiers,” said AFF President Bill Haddad. “I learned about EMG’s Waste Water Treatment System and we made a decision to incorporate it into our design. We are also considering this technology for our Ireland facility.”

“There are currently 2400 anaerobic digesters in the U.S., and more in the pipeline, but there is room for many more,” said Energy Vision President Matt Tomich. “Thousands of facilities could use this technology.”

“Through anaerobic digestion, we can process the world’s organic waste,” said Energy Vision’s founder and Senior Advisor Joanna Underwood. “Globally, most anthropogenic methane comes from agriculture and waste – about twice the methane fossil fuels emit – and methane is one of the most potent greenhouse gases there is. Anaerobic digesters capture methane biogases, which can be made into clean fuel to replace high-carbon diesel. The biosolids can be turned into high-quality soil amendments. Every country in the world needs lower methane emissions, clean fuel, and a way to restore soils. Organic waste from farms, businesses, municipal wastewater etc. are free resources. Once the anaerobic digester infrastructure is in place, we get free, carbon-negative fuel and fertilizer. These facilities will be crucial worldwide.”

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