BMW i3 California

BMW NA is expanding its partnership with California Bioenergy, also known as CalBio, a company that develops biodigesters for use on California dairies and farms. The Bar 20 Dairy, located in Kerman, California, is participating in the latest efforts, and an onsite system will be used to produce clean, renewable energy. Biodigester units developed by CalBio are integral to the process, and allow for 100% offset of carbon emissions by capturing methane that would otherwise be vented to the atmosphere—and become a greenhouse gas—from cow manure and subsequently transforming it into energy without combustion. That energy is then fed back into the power grid.

Participants involved with the latest developments and cooperation between BMW and CalBio also include Bloom Energy, a Silicon Valley startup that manufactures and markets solid oxide fuel-cells that produce electricity on-site, along with Producers Dairy, which is headquartered in Fresno, California. BMW was the first automaker to collaborate with dairy farms on renewable energy projects, and started working with the Straus Organic Dairy Farm (pictured above) located in Marin County two years ago. Since then, BMW has strengthened its relationship with CalBio, with the intent of expanding the use of biodigesters at U.S. dairies and farms, like what’s happening now.

“At BMW, we continue to pursue new ways to bring sustainability to all aspects of our vehicles—including the electricity powering our EVs,” 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. We hope to expand this forward thinking model in the future, bringing more biodigester investment to farms throughout the U.S. and continuing to provide clean energy to EV drivers.”

CalBio

In addition to improving air quality in places such as Central and Northern California, the methane emissions reductions at the Bar 20 Dairy, when combined with the renewable energy that is generated in the same process, are said to result in emissions reductions that equate to providing clean, renewable energy for more than 17,000 electric vehicles per year. The project will also assist in California meeting its own statewide emissions targets.

“In bringing together the best technology from Silicon Valley with the best technology from the Central Valley, we’re really doing something special for California,” said N. Ross Buckenham, CEO of CalBio. “This ultra-clean, biogas-fueled, on-dairy, self-generation power system scales from small to large dairies. We’re excited to now be able to demonstrate a large-scale system capable of generating one megawatt base load 24/7 that provides grid resiliency, and greatly improves local air quality while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

In addition to being a net positive for the environment—the California Air Resources Board (CARB) recognizes biodigesters with a negative emissions score, meaning they not only offset carbon emissions, but actually serve to reduce them—methane capture and conversion can also become a source of revenue for dairies and farms through California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) program. The program allows for the generation of environmental credits, which are shared by the farms and BMW, the latter of which uses them to fund programs such as ChargeForward.—Alex Tock

[Photos courtesy BMW NA, California Bioenergy LLC.]

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