Dairy farm, BMW partner on biogas electricity to power cars

By Straus Family Creamery | November 27, 2019

Straus Family Creamery, a leader in organic farming and sustainable dairy innovation, announces a collaboration between its Founder and CEO Albert Straus’ organic dairy farm and BMW Group. Together, they’re making low carbon charging available for BMW’s electric vehicle (EV) customers in California allowing EV drivers to “source” a cleaner charge from electricity generated at an organic dairy farm.

This collaboration between the Straus Organic Dairy Farm and BMW Group is using a new pathway that uses biogas to create electricity that can charge electric cars. It’s the first-of-its-kind in the auto industry. Through the Low Carbon Fuel Standards Program, they’re creating renewable energy with negative carbon intensity—one of the cleanest energy sources available in California.

“With the current climate change crisis, the relationship that we’re forging with BMW is essential,” said Albert Straus, founder and CEO, Straus Family Creamery. “Not only will this help farmers in rural communities, but partnerships like these are critical to help the planet.”

“This collaboration is the first of its kind in the auto industry,” said Bernhard Kuhnt, president and CEO, BMW of North America. “It is a perfect fit for the BMW Group, which has long valued creative technologies and partnerships that can contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

The LCFS program helps meet the urgent need to decrease greenhouse gas emissions in both the transportation and farming sectors, allowing dairy farmers access to a new revenue stream while achieving emission-reduction goals required by California law. The LCFS program allows dairy farms that install methane biodigesters, which capture methane (a greenhouse gas) from the cows’ manure and transform it into electrical power, to earn money for generating electricity that can be used to power EVs.

The LCFS program is part of California’s Global Warming Solutions Act (AB32), the LCFS was created to reduce the carbon intensity (CI) of the transportation sector by 10 percent by 2020. Under the LCFS program, producers of fossil fuels used for California transportation must trade credits from low carbon fuel makers, thereby subsidizing the cost of producing low carbon fuels and incentivizing their expansion.

Methane digesters cost anywhere from $500,000 to $2 million for small organic farms such as those in the Straus Family Creamery independent supplier network, making adoption a challenging goal for most family-run dairy operations—even those committed to sustainable agricultural practices.

Under the LCFS program, a dairy farm can earn five to 10 times more revenue for selling their renewable energy credits compared to a standard power purchase agreement with a utility buyer. This increased revenue makes it more likely that small-scale organic dairy farmers will invest in a biodigester.

Livestock agriculture contributes 14.5 percent of total global climate emissions and 4.2 percent of the total United States emissions. Dairy manure accounts for about a quarter of California’s methane emissions. The Straus Organic Dairy Farm and BMW Group’s collaboration is a significant step forward in lowering emissions while helping family farms be viable and climate resilient. The existing operating methane digester at the Straus Organic Dairy Farm reduces methane emissions by 1,600 metric tons of CO2e annually.

“When BMW set out to make electric vehicles, we intended to make sustainability a core design element that extended beyond the vehicle itself,” said Adam Langton, BMW energy manger. “Now, we’re making the electricity that goes into our vehicles as clean as possible while helping support the state’s farming and food system.”

Joseph Button, sustainability director, Straus Family Creamery, added, “Albert Straus is creating a model where sustainable organic dairy farming is a climate-change solution. Biodigesters are the technological innovation at the crux of that model. This collaboration is helping us to support organic family farms while delivering major climate-positive impacts.”

Straus Organic Dairy Farm is actively working with BMW Group and BTR Energy to advance new small-scale digester technology and bring more bioelectric fuel to the market. BMW Group announced the partnership today during the Los Angeles Auto Show’s Media Day.