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How Much Manure in CA? PG&E Thinks Lots and Lots

In its second big step into pasture paddy-powered electricity, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. announced Monday another waste-to-energy renewable contract in California's manure-laced central agricultural valley, inking a 10-year deal for up to 3 Bcf of what the utility calls "renewable natural gas" annually from BioEnergy Solutions.. As with a similar deal with another biogas provider last fall, the price and other terms of the agreement were kept confidential.

Like the 2.8 Bcf annually of biogas from Microgy Inc. (8 MMcf/d), the latest slug of manure-to-methane gas will be brought to pipeline quality natural gas standards and mixed in with other supplies used by PG&E to generate power (see Daily GPI, Oct. 13, 2006). BioEnergy's first project will begin at the Vintage Dairy in Fresno County and expand to other dairies as necessary to reach the 3 Bcf annual volume, a utility spokesperson in San Francisco said.

"Developing new sources of renewable energy is a priority for PG&E," said Fong Wan, the utility vice president for energy procurement. "This project is yet another example of our company's commitment to the environment by delivering clean, climate-friendly energy to our customers."

Manure from 3,000 dairy cows will be "flushed" into covered lagoons that will trap the methane gas produced as the cow dung decomposes, according to the utility's smelly version of the patented process. The methane is then scrubbed to remove carbon dioxide (CO2) and corrosive materials to meet what PG&E called its "industry-leading environmental standards" for power plants, and then delivered to the utility pipeline system.

With the farms under more pressure to reduce the manure emissions, BioEnergy President David Albers said his firm is "thrilled" to partner with PG&E to turn "what otherwise would be a growing problem for farmers into a new revenue source for them."

PG&E said it currently supplies more than 12% of its energy from renewable resources that qualify under California's program requirements. In addition, the utility said more than half of its electricity comes from generating sources that emit no carbon, since it has substantial hydroelectric resources and a major 2,200 MW nuclear power plant at Diablo Canyon along the central California coast.

Since the start of the state's mandated renewable push, PG&E has signed contracts for more than 1,100 MW of renewables -- wind, solar, geothermal, biomass and hydro, the utility said.

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