Avolta, a renewable energy company focused on originating, developing, owning and operating renewable natural gas (RNG) projects, and its regional development partner, Atlas Global Holdings, LLC, broke ground on a RNG project at the Butterfield Dairy in Buckeye on June 29.

“RNG benefits the farmer, local communities and it has a positive environmental impact. For the farm, this process helps manage their waste and wastewater, which reduces costs, but doesn’t take away from the value they’re still getting from organic separated solids that can be used for fertilization on the fields and in their barns for bedding,” says Gov Siegel, co-founder of Avolta.

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“Methane and carbon dioxide are currently produced in lagoons that traditional dairy operations have. That methane, which is 30 times more potent as a greenhouse gas, is being created, but it’s going up into the atmosphere. It’s contributing to pollution and climate change,” explains Siegel. “Through these new processes, we’ll be able to capture that methane while also creating a monetization event. It will also allow all that carbon dioxide to get pulled out of the atmosphere, which supports global climate change initiatives.”

To generate RNG, dairy manure streams are diverted and stored in digestors for a specified time to allow the bacteria to “eat” the manure. As the manure is digested, methane is created, then is processed and upgraded to pipeline quality gas before being injected into the nearest gas pipeline. This effectively turns what would otherwise be a cost to farmers — the labor required to manage the manure coming out of barns — into a revenue stream.

“I was born and raised in a dairy family. My dad was born and raised in a dairy family, my dad’s dad — all the way back to 1620. It’s what we do. And now my sons are working on the dairy. It’s a family-oriented business. This is not a corporate farm,” says Tommy de Jong Sr., the Butterfield Dairy family patriarch.

The sons of de Jong wanted to keep the family tradition alive and helped create the next chapter in the family legacy. “We designed Butterfield Dairy to be carbon neutral through managing our water to support crops and capture carbon dioxide,” adds de Jong. “I didn’t build it for them. They built it themselves.”

A second RNG project is slated to open at Mily Way Dairy in the City of Maricopa. The two projects will create 200 construction jobs and sustain long term employment at the operational facilities once they are running. Collectively, Butterfield and Milky Way dairies care for more than 50,000 cows and the projects will generate over 675,000 MMBtu of RNG annually which will ultimately be distributed as renewable transportation fuel. The Butterfield and Milky Way projects are scheduled to begin delivering gas into a Southwest Gas Pipeline at the end of the fourth quarter 2021 and first quarter 2022, respectively.