Dairy trucks powered by cow waste

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Hilarides Dairy announced Thursday, Feb. 12, at the World Agricultural Fair in Tulare, Calif., that it is converting cow waste to fuel trucks and generators while minimizing pollution and diversifying energy sources.

Rob Hilarides, the dairy owner, earned a $600,000 grant from the California Air Resources Board’s Alternative Fuel Incentive Program, which subsidizes projects facilitating greater use of nonpetroleum fuels.

“It’s energy projects like this that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and get us off our dependency of foreign oil,” says Mary Nichols, California Air Resources Board chairman. “It also addresses sources of long-term air and water pollution problems.”

Dairy farm owner Rob Hilarides converted two heavy-duty diesel trucks to run on clean-burning biomethane produced from his cows’ manure. Using an anaerobic-lagoon digester that processes the runoff of nearly 10,000 cows, the project generates 226,000 cubic feet of biogas per day and enough fuel to run two heavy-duty trucks that make daily runs; Hilarides says this has reduced the dairy’s diesel consumption by 650 gallons a day. Hilarides says he intends to convert five pick-up trucks to use the same fuel.

The project is the result of a public-private partnership aimed at encouraging the use of renewable biomethane produced from the waste of food processing and dairies. In June 2006, California’s legislature allotted $25 million in grants to encourage the integration of alternative fuels into California’s market. Projects from the grants now are coming online, and examples can be seen throughout the state.

State officials say they supported the Hilarides project because the process reduces volatile organic compounds and greenhouse gases; generates compressed natural gas, an alternative to diesel; and minimizes two sources of the valley’s air pollution problem. Redirecting the cow waste to produce natural gas and rededicating diesel engines to run on the alternative fuel is a replicable process, and it’s hoped many farms throughout the state will embrace the option, officials say.