Vermont Anaerobic Digester Project Offers Template for More RNG Collaboration

The largest anaerobic digester in the Northeast began producing renewable natural gas (RNG) in Vermont last month. According to reports, the digester can recycle more than 180 tons of food waste from manufacturers, retailers and distributors and 100 tons of cow manure from local dairies per day. The facility processes those waste streams into RNG which can then be used the way that all natural gas is used, for direct use or for electricity.

There are many things that are noteworthy about this project, from its overall size to the amount of waste it’s converting into something more valuable, and so on. But one thing that sticks out is how many different parties supported the construction of the anaerobic digester. Middlebury College (which will purchase about 55% of the RNG produced by the plant), Vanguard Renewables, AGA-member Vermont Gas Systems (VGS), Goodrich Family Farm and the state of Vermont all played a part in getting the project off the ground.  

It’s good news for everyone whenever a large project like this comes online and offers a new source for renewable gas to be used in a variety of end markets. But it’s even better when a project can serve as a template for additional collaboration between utilities and renewable energy advocates nationwide.

Natural gas utilities specifically have made commitments to reducing carbon emissions and supporting advanced gas technologies like the kind used to produce RNG. The Vermont project offers them all a lesson to go big when it comes to building a coalition to fulfill these commitments. Many different types of organizations can become valuable partners when it comes to reaching the natural gas industry’s goal of increasing access to RNG.

Among the companies participating in the project is perhaps Vermont’s best-known institution—Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, which will provide food waste to be digested into RNG.  The same way that we can all agree that ice cream is good, the Vermont project shows that I scream, you scream, we all scream for RNG.