by Cole Lauterbach
Two dairy farms in Arizona soon will be producing more than milk.
Renewable energy company Avolta has begun construction on a renewable gas project in Buckeye that will turn the tons of manure produced daily from the more than 25,000 Holstein dairy cows at Buttermilk farms into biogas.
The manure will be sealed underground and “digested” until methane can be created and extracted. The gas is processed and pumped into a nearby Southwest Gas pipeline, providing the farms with an additional revenue stream and keeping the methane gas out of the atmosphere.
“Avolta is pleased to expand into Arizona with the new RNG upgrading facility at Butterfield Dairy,” said Gov Siegel, co-founder of Avolta. “The Butterfield RNG Facility will positively impact the environment while simultaneously providing benefits to the de Jong family farming operation.”
The operation, which the company and the local farm owners ceremonially opened June 29, is the first of two renewable natural gas (RNG) projects planned in the area. The second site Avolta plans to open is in partnership with the Milky Way Dairy Farm west of Maricopa. Once completed, the sites will generate more than 675,000 MMBtu of RNG annually and be sold in the form of renewable transportation fuel, the company said in a news release.
While the project is expansive, covering more than two football fields, the output represents a small portion of Arizona’s total consumption. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the state used more than 482 thousand million cubic feet units of natural gas in 2019.
“Since our family began farming in 1620, we have continuously improved our operations and processes to remain competitive and be a good steward of the land. Most recently we designed Butterfield Dairy to be carbon neutral through managing our water to support crops and capture carbon dioxide,” said Tommy de Jong Sr., who owns Butterfield.
While most commonly used on landfills, agricultural RNG operations are becoming more common. As of March, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said 52 manure-based anaerobic digestion systems produce RNG in the U.S., with 44 more under construction. While several are under construction in Arizona, none have yet to begin producing RNG.
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Cole Lauterbach is a regional editor for The Center Square covering Arizona, California, Oregon, and Washington. For more than a decade, Cole has produced award-winning content on both radio and television.