A series of developments in recent months has Arizona at the heart of a rapidly growing industry centered around biogas, a renewable methane-based energy source. Last summer, it was announced by West Virginia renewable developer Avolta that the company was looking to expand its footprint in the American Southwest, with Arizona being the main target of investment. Together with Atlas Global Holdings, a property developer based in Phoenix, Avolta, quickly broke ground on a series of projects in the state.
The first of the projects is a facility on the Butterfield Dairy grounds in Buckeye, with the second of the two nearby at Maricopa’s Milky Way Dairy. The gas is generated on-site and then dispersed for various uses, most notably a pipeline owned and operated by energy company Southwest Gas. The total energy output of the Avolta facilities is in the range of 700,000 MMBtu of biogas annually. Buckeye’s Butterfield facility joins two other major methane-based energy programs at Stoltz Dairy and Triple G Farms as the driving forces for biogas solutions within the county, collectively producing millions of kilowatt-hours of usable energy each year.
Arizona’s increased biogas investment highlights an exciting trend of new industries emerging as accessories to other, longstanding production sectors within the state. Arizonans have historically considered their state as the “land of the five C’s,” those being “copper, cattle, cotton, citrus, and climate.” Over time, the emphasis and economic impact behind any given sector of the five would twist and shift dramatically. In a state responsible for an average of 65% of the nation’s copper, rapid changes in demand over a relatively short amount of time can be the difference of billions in Arizona’s economy year-to-year.
The renewed attention to developing biogas comes at an intersection of the state’s cattle and climate industries. Following a flurry of nationwide calls for states to crack down on their emissions, attention has turned to the disproportionately large impact methane emissions from cattle have on the climate.
Instead of allowing livestock waste to emit methane gas into the atmosphere, facilities like those built by Avolta take manure and use bacteria to break it down inside industrial-sized tanks called biodigesters. The process produces methane-based biogas that provides an energy outlet for a material that would otherwise contribute to the atmospheric heating effect at 80 times the rate of carbon dioxide. What was a net environmental loss traditionally is now a major positive — it’s a win for the state’s air quality, farmers who have a financial use for their cow manure, and renewable companies like Avolta.
Avolta’s increased presence has been met with excitement from local industry figures. “This will be the first in a series of projects in Arizona that uphold our commitment to supporting the dairy industry and providing economic opportunities to local communities, all while reducing the impact on the environment,” said Gov Siegel, who co-founded Avolta. Tommy de Jong Sr. spoke with a similar optimism as he reflected on what the partnership means for Butterfield Dairy.
“Since our family began farming in 1620, we have continuously improved our operations and processes to remain competitive and be a good steward of the land,” said de Jong as he reflected on how Butterfield looked to take their operation in a sustainable direction going forward. “This RNG project with Atlas and Avolta is the next phase in this tradition of continuous improvement with many benefits for our farming operation and the environment.”