Brightmark, a San Francisco-based waste and energy development company, today announced that it has partnered with three Western Michigan farms on the latest in a series of biogas projects the company has launched over the past two years. The Michigan farmers have each signed supply agreements with Brightmark indicating their intent to provide the company with dairy manure from their herds that will serve as feedstock for new anaerobic digesters to be built on Beaver Creek Farm. The digesters will capture, extract, and clean the methane in the manure, then convert it into renewable natural gas (RNG) and inject it into a nearby gas pipeline.

The farms participating in the Castor project are:

Beaver Creek Farm: Coopersville, Ottawa County
Den Dulk Farm: Ravenna, Muskegon County
River Ridge Farm: Coopersville, Ottawa County
Once the Castor project is fully operational in early 2022, it is anticipated to produce about 328,500 MMBtu of RNG each year, making this Brightmark’s largest RNG project to date. The company has partnered on biogas projects with 20 dairy farms in six states over the past two years. Once all of these projects are operational, Brightmark’s RNG projects will generate enough renewable natural gas each year to drive 5,100 18-wheeler trucks from San Francisco to New York City.

Brightmark CEO Bob Powell said, “This renewable natural gas project will be a win-win for the community, the environment, and the farmers, who have the potential to significantly reduce their nutrient management costs. We are actively working with Ottawa County to obtain all the permits for this project and to make sure it we’re maximizing benefits to the local community and our farmer partners.”

Brightmark Vice President Craig Murphy, who is the lead developer for the Castor project, said, “As a Michigan native, it has been a great experience working with the local community, Muskegon County and the Muskegon County Wastewater Management System staff, who continue to be dedicated to finding new solutions to a common waste challenge. We look forward to working together for years to come.”

Anaerobic digestion systems can prevent significant quantities of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from being released into the atmosphere. Research shows that when all climate benefits are considered together, RNG from dairy manure can reduce greenhouse gas emissions 400% when it is used to replace traditional vehicle fuels. This project will reduce the net greenhouse gas emissions from the manure processed at this facility at a rate of 98,783 metric tons per year, which is equivalent to planting 129,000 acres of forest each year1. After the methane is extracted from the processed manure, the remaining materials will be transported to the Muskegon County Wastewater Management System where it will be processed alongside the county’s other wastewater. This partnership will allow the farms to reduce land application of manure and improve odor and nutrient management practices.

“We’re glad that we can have a role in making this project work. It’s amazing to consider all the pieces and players that have to come together to make it happen. I’ve enjoyed working with representatives from Brightmark and the dairies. I have no doubt of their sincerity and dedication to make this dream a reality,” said Dave Johnson, Wastewater Director of Muskegon County Wastewater Management System.

“As a participating farm, we are excited to have Brightmark as a partner in anaerobic digestion of the manure from our cows,” said Greg Stahl, owner of Den Dulk Dairy Farm. “This investment will help local farms like ours continue to be environmentally friendly to our community and help us to exceed environmental regulations and responsibilities. We have always taken pride in being excellent stewards of our land, community, and industry.”

Sylvia Heaton, Supervisor of the Water Resources Division for the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE), said, “EGLE is excited to be working with Beaver Creek, Brightmark, and other farms on this project that will produce energy and provide valuable water quality benefits. The project can serve as a useful model that might be applied in other areas of the state with impaired water.”