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As of: 9:03 AM, 8/16/22

Cows Bring Us Ice Cream; Did You Know They Also Bring Us Energy?

Picture this: you are standing on the shore and your feet are sinking into the sand as water splashes onto your toes. You look out onto the horizon over Lake Michigan. As the summer sun washes over you, heating up your skin, you take a lick of your freshly scooped cookie dough ice cream. It is the perfect day in Michigan, and it wouldn’t be complete without cows. Why? That ice cream came from somewhere.

Believe it or not, cows also are helping to protect our planet. They’re integral to reducing greenhouse gas emissions with renewable natural gas (RNG). At Consumers Energy, we are committed to advancing Michigan’s clean energy transformation, and cows are MOO-ving that future forward.

What is Renewable Natural Gas?

In Michigan, our dairy farmers proudly feed our state, but the cows also produce a large amount of waste in the form of manure. RNG is converted renewable energy that comes from cow manure. Animal waste naturally emits methane during decomposition – a greenhouse gas 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

The process begins with collecting cow waste and capturing the biogas released as the manure’s organic materials break down and decompose. Biodigester facilities then use an anaerobic process to clean the gas by removing moisture, particulates and other contaminates from the waste to produce purified RNG. The RNG is then transported via our vast distribution network to serve people like you!

The Benefits

A principal benefit of RNG is its negative methane footprint. A key part of our clean energy plan is to achieve net zero methane emissions by 2030, roughly the equivalent of removing 55,000 vehicles off the roads and preserving more than 300,000 acres of forest.

Additionally, we get to help farmers cut emissions and reduce manure management operating expenses. (Plus, RNG reduces the odor!) RNG can also bring another revenue stream to the farm, much like an additional crop.

Beyond its environmental impact, RNG benefits the entire state: once the gas is fully processed, it helps power stoves, heat homes and dry grain for farmers and others throughout Michigan.

One of the farms we are working with is the Oesch family at Swiss Lane Farms, a dairy farm that dates to 1915. We’re developing plans to build a biodigester facility to convert manure from Swiss Lane’s 3,000 cows into clean, renewable natural gas. The biodigester will cover five acres of land and produce roughly 65,000 Mcf (thousand cubic feet) of RNG annually.

This new process for converting waste to a useful resource is still developing. We are looking forward to working with communities across Michigan to extract other benefits.

How Can I Learn More?

The team at Consumers Energy is working with farmers across Michigan to showcase RNG’s myriad benefits and advance the state’s clean energy transformation. We are interested in involving more farmers in this initiative. If you are interested in getting your farm involved, email us at agservices@cmsenergy.com.

So next time go ahead and get that second scoop of ice cream, we can celebrate cows bringing us delicious ice cream in addition to helping make our planet a bit healthier!