Consumers Energy Partners with West Michigan Farm for Renewable Fuel

Consumers Energy, one of Michigan’s largest energy providers and principal subsidiary of CMS Energy in Jackson, announced an agreement with Swisslane Farms to build a biodigester facility that will convert agricultural waste into clean, renewable natural gas (RNG).
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Consumers Energy and Swisslane Farms are partnering on a biodigester facility to create renewable natural gas. // Courtesy of Swisslane Farms
Consumers Energy and Swisslane Farms are partnering on a biodigester facility to create renewable natural gas. // Courtesy of Swisslane Farms

Consumers Energy, one of Michigan’s largest energy providers and principal subsidiary of CMS Energy in Jackson, announced an agreement with Swisslane Farms to build a biodigester facility that will convert agricultural waste into clean, renewable natural gas (RNG).

RNG is interchangeable with conventional natural gas as is produced from organic wastes and other renewable sources. The energy produced from the partnership will work to power Michigan homes, farms, and businesses. RNG is one key technology in the effort to reduce methane gas emissions, which are a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

“This project is an exciting first step in a cleaner natural gas future for our customers,” says Greg Salisbury, vice president of gas engineering and supply at Consumers Energy.
“Michigan will need natural gas for years to come.

“We also expect the role of natural gas to evolve, and RNG provides exciting opportunities to help the environment and the economy. We’re proud to work with the agricultural community to lead Michigan’s clean energy transformation.”

Swisslane Farms, located in Alto (southeast of Grand Rapids), plans to provide manure from its dairy cows to the production facility, which means the manure will no longer be stored in open lagoons where methane is released into the atmosphere.

Instead, the biodigester will contain the manure, capture the methane, clean and condition it, and place it in existing gas pipelines. This capture process is equivalent to removing about 4,000 gasoline vehicles from the road each year.

The $17 million project, which is still pending regulatory approval, could start production in late 2023. Ultimately, the biodigester could produce enough RNG annually to heat nearly 1,000 homes on a cold winter day.

“We are proud of the positive impact this will have on our community while combining our passion for caring for the land, our animals and environment,” says Matt Oesch, CEO of Swisslane Farms. “For generations our family has embodied the role of being stewards of the land. Our partnership with Consumers Energy will allow us to make a positive difference in producing a sustainable, renewable energy source for the generations to come.”

The farm has been in the Oesch family since 1915 when current CEO Matt Oesch’s great-grandfather bought it. As a farm owned by the same family for more than 100 years, Swiss Lane is part of the state’s Centennial farm program, which is supported by the Consumers Energy Foundation.

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