Energy Guide: Biogas – A Renewable Source for the Future

Written by: Clarissa Drouillard

Natural gas is one of the top sources of energy used in heating, cooking, and electricity generation. But almost all of our supply is harvested from pockets formed deep underground, making it a non-renewable resource that will eventually run out. In searching for replacements to fossil fuels, biogas digesters have emerged as a way to turn waste into power, heat, and fertilizer.

Biogas digesters, which can be either permanent or temporary air-tight structures, contain bacteria that consume organic waste and produce methane gas and liquid fertilizer. The latter product can be repurposed in agriculture. The gas, however, can be used to power both homes and industry. Powering gas stoves is the most common use in the home, although the cost of large biodigesters makes them more suited to large-scale application.

One example of success is Fair Oaks Farms in Indiana, where manure from livestock in converted on-site into enough energy to fully power its facilities and fleet of trucks. A similar facility is soon to come here in California, which will take waste from California’s booming dairy industry and deliver electricity and gas for vehicles. Toyota recently announced its plans to build a biogas facility large enough to power over 2,000 homes and 1,500 vehicles.

While biogas digesters remain more prominent in industry, small biodigesters for homes are also available, ranging from $500-$800 for one that will provide two hours of cooking gas a day. Although it is quite an investment, they allow homeowners to reduce their waste by a huge fraction.

As clean energy solutions become more affordable, we can expect to see a rise in renewable investments. Hopefully, an increase in the number of biogas digesters will allow us to make the progress necessary to reduce our impact on our environment.

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