Not only will the herd at Larson Dairy Farms produce more than 12 million gallons of milk this year, but they will also generate enough renewable natural gas (RNG) to power 1,185 homes.
Through a partnership with Brightmark RNG Holdings, the Okeechobee County dairy farm operates anaerobic digesters that collect and clean methane from cow manure and deliver it back into the local interstate gas pipeline as renewable energy to be used by homes and businesses. The digesters are anticipated to generate 171,000 mm BTU of renewable natural gas annually. This project will reduce over 57,000 tons of CO2 each year, which is equivalent to planting over 75,000 acres of forest.
In addition, Larson Dairy Farms recaptures water returns directly to the farm or site where the digester is located for reuse, providing environmental benefits such as odor mitigation and air quality, soil stabilization and nutrient control.
“The Larsons are fourth-generation dairy farmers,” explained Keyna Cory, speaking on behalf of Brightmark and Larson Dairy Farms. “Their intention is to pass the operation down to their granddaughters. Renewable natural gas from dairy manure and organic waste has a negative carbon intensity compared to other forms of energy such as fossil fuels and electricity. So, this opportunity not only promises a brighter future for their family and their farm but also extends its beneficial environmental influence far beyond its borders.”
During the Special Session this week, the Senate Committee on Agriculture heard from Cory, as well as Dale Calhoun, executive director of the Florida Natural Gas Association, and Ray Hodge of United Dairy Farmers of Florida on the potential for expanded RNG production in the Sunshine State.
“Renewable natural gas produced right here in Florida does not just grow our domestic, clean energy supply,” said Calhoun. “It also brings many environmental benefits — reducing nutrient runoff, eliminating carbon emissions and maintaining working agricultural lands.”
Larson Dairy Farms is one of two RNG facilities in operation in Florida. Alliance Dairies in Trenton, in partnership with TECO Peoples Gas, is also producing RNG. There are two more dairies under construction: Southern Cross Dairy in McAlpin and Full Circle Dairy in Lee. Up to 16 dairy farms across Florida have the potential to produce RNG, and state lawmakers can help transition these facilities to RNG production with incentives and tax exemptions.
“As we stabilize, revitalize and grow agriculture, it’s important that we also find new ways to add income to the economic model we already have,” said Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Jay Collins. “I think it’s extremely important that we continue to talk about it and learn what we can do to help additional dairy farms take action and create additional revenue streams.”
To learn more about the opportunities for Florida dairy farms to produce renewable natural gas, watch this video featuring Full Circle Dairy.