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Cows Powering Electric Cars with Next Generation Technology

Clean energy and air quality experts, government officials, and dairy industry leaders recently gathered to celebrate the launch of a next generation, climate-smart dairy technology. The digester at Bar 20 Dairy in Fresno County is now capturing methane from manure to fuel Bloom Energy Servers, generating renewable electricity without combustion. The 100 percent carbon-neutral electricity is then transmitted via the grid to power BMW electric cars.

Clean energy and air quality experts, government officials, and dairy leaders celebrated a next generation climate-smart dairy technology with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The first-of-its-kind solution provides critical methane reductions to help the state meet its short and long-term climate goals. Additionally, the project provides critical local air quality benefits while furthering the state’s ambitious clean transportation goals. The greenhouse gas reduction from the project is substantial, from methane capture to renewable energy generation and use. The total annual carbon emission reduction is equivalent to providing clean power to more than 17,000 electric cars.

Bar 20 Dairy—owned and operated by the Shehadey family since 1957—is proud to work with partners to bring another innovative, planet-smart farming project to fruition.

"When I was young, my grandfather told me that we make milk for people’s children," says Steve Shehadey. "That has always stuck with us on the farm. We can’t offer anything but our best for children and the families who buy our milk. Today, that also means doing what we can to help clean the San Joaquin Valley air and to be part of a climate solution.”

What makes the digester at Bar 20 Dairy farm unique is that it feeds into fuel cells for electricity production. The on-site Bloom Energy Servers, comprised of solid oxide fuel cells, create renewable electricity in a highly efficient manner. The use of fuel cells reduces carbon emissions from energy generation and eliminates the majority of air pollution from producing electricity.

“In bringing together the best technology from Silicon Valley with the best technology from the Central Valley, we’re really doing something special to mitigate climate change and clean the environment,” said N. Ross Buckenham, CEO of California Bioenergy (CalBio), a digester project developer. “This ultra-clean, methane-capturing, on-dairy system can scale from small to large dairies. We’re excited to now be demonstrating the system at Bar 20 Dairy, producing one megawatt of renewable power, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, while also supporting grid resiliency, improving local air quality and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

Ultra-clean, reliable electricity produced on the dairy is delivered to the grid, helping power BMW electric vehicles, like the 2022 iX electric SUV.

BMW, the first automaker to collaborate with dairy farms on renewable energy projects, was glad to partner with CalBio, Bar 20 Dairy, and Bloom Energy in this project.

“At BMW, we continue to pursue new ways to bring sustainability to all aspects of our vehicles—including the electricity powering our electric vehicles,” said Adam Langton, energy services manager, connected eMobility, BMW of North America. “Our partnership with CalBio represents an innovative way to help drive renewable energy investment, which not only powers our vehicles with clean energy, but also reduces methane emissions at dairy farms and brings a new revenue source to agricultural communities.”

The innovative project was made possible through state incentive programs and private investors. The project received funding from the Dairy Digester Research and Development Program (DDRDP), administered by the California Department of Food and Agriculture, and the Self Generation Incentive Program (SGIP), administered by the California Public Utilities Commission. Access to revenue generated by California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) credits helps make the needed private capital investments possible. The project employs two new full-time employee equivalents to operate and manage the system. Partnering companies are currently exploring implementation of this same technology at other San Joaquin Valley dairies.

The Shehadey family of Bar 20 Dairy considers this project to be one of several ongoing investments in planet-smart, sustainable dairy farm practices. The dairy also continues to adopt new strategies to ensure the best possible animal health and comfort. Farm employees use activity necklaces to closely monitor cow wellness, and to prevent any health issues. In 2020, the dairy began implementing an electric feed mixing system that significantly reduced the use of diesel for daily activities, in an effort to improve air quality. Barns are lighted with 100 percent LED bulbs, and electricity needs are offset by a two-megawatt, on-site solar array. By supplying milk to the Producers Dairy Foods plant, just 20 miles away, the farm provides fresh milk daily that helps nourish local communities.

“We’ve lived in California our whole life. We’ve lived in this Valley. We care about this Valley, and we give back to our community,” said Shehadey. “That’s why we want to be sustainable, when we look toward the future and try to make this place an even better place to be.”

California dairy families are helping care for the community and the planet through partnership and innovation.


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