Vanguard Renewables and Dominion Energy partner up on 1st nationwide network of dairy waste-to-energy projects

December 15, 2019 |

1st nationwide network of dairy waste-to-energy projects coming soon!

Vanguard Renewables and Dominion Energy partner up to convert methane into RNG

Ughhh, smell that smell? Maybe you won’t anymore! Cows, pigs, humans, we all do it. We fart, we poop, we emit putrid waste products, yes, we are one with nature in many ways. The dairy industry and hog industries in particular are huge methane producers, and it’s awful for us and the planet, so what can we do about it?

Capture and convert!

In today’s Digest, find out how Vanguard Renewables and Dominion Energy are partnering up on a $200 million nationwide strategic partnership to convert methane from U.S. dairy farms into clean, RNG, what this means for RNG and energy industries as a whole, how this is the largest investment yet in dairy manure to RNG in the U.S., and more – ready for you now at The Digest online.

In Virginia, Dominion Energy and Vanguard Renewables announced a more than $200 million, nationwide strategic partnership to convert methane from U.S. dairy farms into clean, renewable natural gas (RNG) that can heat homes, power businesses and fuel vehicles. Multiple projects are under development in Georgia, Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah with additional projects planned nationwide.

Under the strategic partnership, Dominion Energy will own the projects and market the RNG, and Vanguard Renewables’ subsidiary Clean Energy Investment USA dba Vanguard Renewables Ag will design, develop and operate the projects.

Through this new partnership, Vanguard Renewables Ag will develop and operate dairy-manure to RNG facilities across the U.S. These Farm Powered manure-only anaerobic digesters (AD) improve manure and nutrient management, produce clean energy, and provide farms with a new, diversified income stream, according to their press release.

So what does this mean for RNG and energy as a whole? First, we are talking national scale. Second, it’s the largest investment in dairy manure to RNG in the U.S.

“This is the first time dairy manure to renewable energy projects have been developed on a national scale and it is the largest investment in dairy manure to renewable natural gas in the U.S.,” Chase told The Digest. “The strategic partnership builds on Dominion Energy’s leading hog waste-to-energy partnership with Smithfield Foods and Vanguard Renewables’ leadership in the anaerobic digestion space. It also further demonstrates the importance of anaerobic digestion and renewable natural gas production in greenhouse gas emissions reduction and climate change mitigation.”

How to make it happen

It’s no small task to determine which states have the right kind of dairy farms to participate in this project. Vanguard Renewables, Dominion Energy and Dairy Farmers of America first identify states that have the right size and number of dairies to participate. This process has happened in five states already: Georgia, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah.

Following the initial identification of opportunity, Vanguard Renewables Ag is meeting with dairies in those states to talk about the benefits of anaerobic digestion, Kevin Chase, Co-founder and Chief Investment Officer of Vanguard Renewables and CEO of Vanguard Renewables Ag told The Digest in an exclusive interview.

Methane Madness

Methane is produced from a variety of natural sources, including dairy, hog and food waste. When released into the atmosphere, methane emits approximately 25 times more greenhouse gases than carbon dioxide. By capturing methane from U.S. dairy farms and converting it into RNG, Dominion Energy’s and Vanguard Renewables’ strategic partnership will reduce annual CO2 equivalent emissions by more than 450,000 metric tons, the same as taking nearly 100,000 cars off the road or planting 7.5 million new trees each year.

A typical dairy waste-to-energy project consists of a cluster of multiple farms totaling 20,000 to 30,000 dairy cows. The methane produced from dairy manure is captured through a process known as Farm Powered anaerobic digestion and is then transported through low-pressure gathering lines to a central conditioning facility. Once the gas is processed and cleaned of any impurities, it is then delivered to local consumers through the existing underground distribution network.

This new program will employ continuous stir anaerobic digesters that will process the manure with a retention time of 30 to 40 days converting the manure to value added agricultural products including animal bedding, compost, and high-grade nutrient-rich effluent; all of which the dairymen can use on their farms, Chase told The Digest.

Backstory on the players

Dominion Energy is a national leader in clean energy, with the fourth largest U.S. solar fleet and the largest offshore wind project in the U.S. under development along the coast of Virginia. The company has joined forces with Smithfield Foods to form the largest agricultural-based renewable natural gas partnership in the U.S., with $500 million committed over 10 years to convert methane from U.S. hog farms into clean energy for local consumers. Nearly 7.5 million customers in 18 states currently energize their homes and businesses with electricity or natural gas from Dominion Energy.

Vanguard Renewables is a national leader in the development of food and dairy waste-to-energy projects, the U.S. leader in farm-based anaerobic digestion, and the largest organics recycling destination in the Northeast, according to their press release. They have a multi-year strategic alliance with Dairy Farmers of America (DFA), the largest dairy cooperative in the U.S. with more than 14,000 dairy-farmer members across 48 states. The Company’s subsidiary Clean Energy Investment USA dba Vanguard Renewables Ag focuses on the development and operation of dairy waste-to-energy projects that improve manure and nutrient management and produce clean energy.

Reaction from the stakeholders

“Through our strategic partnership with Vanguard Renewables and our strategic alliance with Dairy Farmers of America, we’re rapidly accelerating the development of these transformational projects and for the first time on a nationwide scale,” said Diane Leopold, Dominion Energy’s Co-Chief Operating Officer. “The environmental, consumer and agricultural benefits of these projects are truly groundbreaking,” Leopold continued. “We’re substantially reducing greenhouse gas emissions from U.S. dairy farms, delivering new sources of clean energy to U.S. consumers and providing a new source of long-term revenue for family farmers across the country.”

“Our multi-year alliance with Dairy Farmers of America demonstrates Vanguard Renewables’ commitment to working with the dairy community to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and enhance long-term operational and economic benefits for family farmers. For the first time, dairies across the country have partners with substantial financial resources and a deep understanding of the dairy industry working alongside them to take action now to solve these challenges,” said Kevin Chase, Co-Founder and Chief Investment Officer of Vanguard Renewables and Chief Executive Officer of Vanguard Renewables Ag. “This strategic partnership with Dominion Energy and DFA will have a meaningful impact on greenhouse gas sequestration and dairy waste-to-energy production that will significantly benefit the farm community and the environment.”

“As the leading dairy cooperative in the U.S., we have a long-standing commitment to help family farmer-owners solve challenges,” said David Darr, Senior Vice President and Chief Strategy and Sustainability Officer of Dairy Farmers of America. “Our strategic alliance with Vanguard Renewables and Dominion Energy provides a meaningful solution to the greenhouse gas emissions challenge we face, supports stewardship of the land, and enhances the long-term economic viability for farms across the U.S.,” Darr continued. “This is a win-win for the dairy farmers and for the environment.

Bottom Line

Dominion Energy has some lofty goals expecting to cut generating fleet carbon dioxide emissions 55 percent by 2030 and reduce methane emissions from its gas assets 50 percent by 2030. But is it feasible? With projects and initiatives like this one with Vanguard, it’s totally possible.

As for other long-term goals for the project, Vanguard Renewables hope to complete “five clusters in five states over the next five years,” Chase told The Digest. “Each cluster will contain 3-5 dairies. The $200 million commitment is for the first phase and the partners will consider additional projects as the future unfolds.” So stay tuned as the future is looking less stinky than ever before!


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