Available at: https://digitalcommons.calpoly.edu/theses/1321
Date of Award
MS in Agribusiness
The goal of this research was to analyze the barriers to adoption of methane digesters on California dairies. Methane digesters have long existed as a technology in the dairy industry, both in the United States and abroad. Much research has been done to attest to the viability and economic sustainability of methane digesters; however in 2014, there were 26 dairies in California that have methane digesters installed, and of these, only 17 of those were still in operation, according to the USEPA AgStar Anaerobic Digester Database. Hence, the question remains, as to why this technology has not been widely adopted at the farm level.
Of the 12 interviews conducted, four were with dairies which housed operational digesters. Four more assessed dairies where digesters were no longer operational and an additional four were conducted with dairies that were considering implementing this technology. Results from the interviews were analyzed using qualitative methods to categorize and interpret the textual data collected.
The study found a low level of understanding or competence in the amount of training and technical support necessary for dairy farmers in the installation, operation and long-term maintenance of methane digesters. The study identified initial costs of implementing combined with low negotiated energy prices and changing emissions regulations were among the main reasons for a lack of adoption in California. In addition, the study found geographic location and changing emissions regulations were main factors in the success or failure of this technology. Furthermore, the studies observed those dairies with a third party management contract were the most successful with their digester systems. Most participants of this study view the widespread adoption at the farm level as unlikely at this time.