The Role of Anaerobic Digestion and Solar PV to Achieve GHG Neutrality in a Farm Setting

Horacio Andres Aguirre‐villegas, Erin Cortus, Douglas J. Reinemann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Dairy farms are challenged to increase productivity while achieving environmental sustainability, where greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are at the center of the discussion. The U.S. dairy industry leadership has committed to a Net Zero Initiative to achieve GHG neutrality, but the specifics on how to achieve this are still uncertain. Life cycle assessment methods were used to quantify GHGs and net energy intensity (NEI) of a large (1000 cows) and a small (150 cows) farm in Wisconsin. The GHGs are 1.0 and 1.3 kg CO2‐eq/kg FPCM and the NEI is 2.4 and 3.2 MJ/kg FPCM for the large and small farm, respectively. The GHG benefits from anaerobic digestion (AD, sized to process all manure on both farms) and PV (sized to match AD electricity production) are not enough to achieve GHG neutrality. Increasing the capacity of these systems showed that AD is more cost-effective for the larger farm, but the challenges and costs related to securing and disposing the extra manure needed for energy production limit its feasibility. For the smaller farm, the total annualized costs to achieve GHG neutrality are lower for PV vs. AD, even before accounting for any transportation costs related to handling the extra manure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1975
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 1 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was funded by the Midwest Rural Energy Council (MREC) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture?National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA?NIFA, grant 2021? 51106?35492).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • Anaerobic digestion
  • Dairy
  • Energy intensity
  • GHG emissions
  • GHG neutrality
  • LCA
  • Solar PV


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