Marten Law Group: Anaerobic Digesters -- A Promising Source of Renewable Power, Carbon Offsets
  • 01-04-2008 | 05:37 PM
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Marten Law Group: Anaerobic Digesters -- A Promising Source of Renewable Power, Carbon Offsets

In this Emerging Issues Commentary, Alyssa Moir of the Marten Law Group explores the promise and challenges of biomass energy, particularly the anaerobic digestion of agricultural wastes. Biomass is the chemical decomposition of biodegradable or organic matter for the production of methane, and anaerobic digesters are covered lagoons and sealed concrete tanks that heat waste to speed decomposition. The significance of this technology is that the methane that's produced during anaerobic digestion is suitable for energy production helping replace fossil fuels. While anaerobic digestion presents its own set of regulatory and environmental challenges, which are discussed in full, it is being implemented both in the United States and abroad to provide renewable energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Ms. Moir examines several representative programs and also discusses state GHG reduction targets and financial incentives that make anaerobic digestion more economically viable for farmers. Ms. Moir concludes with practical guidance on steps to take and factors to consider before installing a digester system.
“Even with the implementation and regulatory challenges," Ms. Moir writes, "anaerobic digestion is receiving increased attention as a source of alternative energy and a way to reduce GHG emissions. Farmers and agribusinesses are taking a hard look at their current operations, local and state permitting requirements, funding sources and market opportunities to determine whether an anaerobic digester is a viable option. The following considerations are important first steps:  (1) Conduct a technical assessment of your proposed digester system . . . . (2) Learn about other successful waste-to-energy partnerships with utilities . . . . (3) Apply for grants and subsidies . . . .   (4) Ensure that all economics of the project work, and challenge all assumptions . . .  . (5) Be sure your digester system can comply with existing environmental laws . . . . .
(6) Plan for ongoing management by developing a total plan of operation and marketing.”