Massachusetts dairy farmers form AGreen Energy

By Bryan Sims
Web exclusive posted Jan. 22, 2009, at 1:41 p.m. CST

A consortium of six dairy farmers in Massachusetts have joined forces to create AGreen Energy-a group aimed at reducing their carbon footprint on the state and local level, generating renewable power and preserving the rural agricultural communities in the state.

The AGreen Energy farmers will provide manure to power small-scale anaerobic digesters on each participating farm to generate biogas that can be converted to electricity and sold to the public utility grid. Anaerobic digestion operations can also improve air and water quality on the farm.

The manure for the digesters will be supplemented with organic food waste from Massachusetts' compost program for food processors and restaurants. The AGreen Energy group has 17 collaborating partners, ranging from utilities and government agencies to financial institutions and local universities.

"In addition to receiving a cost savings on their bedding and electric bills, the renewable energy becomes an electricity source for the rural community contributing to energy independence," said Bill Jorgenson, managing principal of SJH & Co. Inc., a Boston-based management consulting firm for agri-business and renewable energy ventures. AGreen Circle, SJH's umbrella project for AGreen Energy, provides business services and project management for agricultural waste-to-energy projects, including those using anaerobic digestion.

The creation of AGreen Energy also formed the subsidiary, AGreen Energy LLC, which is comprised of 12 farmers, SJH & Co. and the 17 collaborating farmers already involved in AGreen Energy. AGreen Energy LLC will manage the AGreen Energy farm projects that will be scaled to serve farms with less than 500 head of dairy cattle.

In July 2008, prior to the formation of AGreen Energy, two members of the group secured an award from the Massachusetts Renewable Energy Trust to move into the design and construction phase for digesters on their farms. Working with Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick's administration, the MRET supports renewable energy projects to maximize the environmental and economic benefits of clean energy technologies for the citizens, businesses and communities in the state.

Not only will the AGreen Energy model benefit Massachusetts, but it's also being modeled elsewhere in the U.S. AGreen Energy LLC is currently working with the Florida Farm Bureau, which received a Value-Added Producers Grant from the USDA, to develop a feasible business plan for energy generation on dairy farms. The University of Florida is the main collaborator on the project which involves 22 other organizations and agencies.