Photo from a site visit to the dairy farm that houses the biodigester.

Innovation in Agriculture and Renewable Energy

Calvert Foundation is excited to announce the recent closure of a $9 million investment, with $5 million provided by New Resource Bank, that will finance the construction of an anaerobic biodigester facility in the western region of the U.S. This investment is a a part of Calvert Foundation’s renewable energy sector work. The biodigester construction aims to reduce the emission of polluting methane gas, provide sustainable fertilizer, and create quality green jobs.

In the U.S., farms manage around 9.4 million cows a year. These cows are estimated to produce 335 million tons of manure each year, which emits methane gas into the atmosphere if it is not contained and destroyed. Methane is the second most abundant man-made greenhouse gas (GHG) after carbon dioxide, and has between 20 and 30 times the heating-trapping capacity as carbon dioxide, the most abundant GHG. Methane is an important component of the total human-related impact on climate change due to its ability to trap heat in the atmosphere.

Biodigesters are an important innovation in the agricultural sector and one way the dairy industry is working to mitigate the effects ofclimate change. Biodigesters process manure and other organic wastes contained in large tanks. The mixture is heated in the absence of oxygen which reduces pathogens. Methane gas rises to the top where it is captured and then further conditioned and processed into pipeline-quality gas. The remaining solid and liquid effluent can be land-applied as fertilizer. Digesters provide improved manure management by capturing methane from the dairy operations, separating it from solid and liquid effluent, and converting it into renewable fuel that is used as compressed renewable gas in truck and bus fleets.

Alongside reducing GHG emissions, these facilities have the potential to provide an improved disposal method for the land application of the nutrient-rich liquid and solid byproducts. The dairy industry is working to turn these byproducts into a valuable organic fertilizers and soil amendments that may be used to grow a variety of crops. By supporting this effort, dairies have a financial incentive to land apply and distribute these products in the most sustainable manner that generates additional farm revenue.

This project aims to provide green job opportunities for the construction as well as the ongoing maintenance and operations. Both the environmental and social impact of the facility will be tracked.

This investment brings together capital from Calvert Foundation and New Resource Bank, which provided an important component of construction financing for the project. It is the sixth deal closed under Calvert Foundation’s new Capital Aggregation services.