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KEWAUNEE, Wis. — Bryan T. Pagel, a dairy farmer, watched as a glistening slurry of cow manure disappeared down a culvert. If recycling the waste on his family’s farm would help to save the world, he was happy to go along.
Out back, machinery was breaking down the manure and capturing a byproduct called methane, a potent greenhouse gas. A huge Caterpillar engine roared as it burned the methane to generate electricity, keeping it out of the atmosphere.
The $3.2 million system also reduces odors at Pagel’s Ponderosa Dairy, one of the largest in Wisconsin, but it would not have been built without a surprising source of funds: a California initiative that is investing in carefully chosen projects, even ones far beyond its borders, to reduce emissions as part of the battle against climate change.
John T. Pagel, the owner, said that he had thought for several years about installing a system to reduce odors and capture methane emissions from the manure of thousands of cows. But he could not figure out how to make the economics work. “It’s the right thing to do, but it has to support itself, too,” Mr. Pagel said.
Then he met a TerraPass representative at an agricultural fair several years ago and learned he could receive payments totaling tens of thousands of dollars a year.
On a tour of his farm near Kewaunee, Mr. Pagel proudly showed off the gear. A 20-cylinder Caterpillar engine, powered by methane from cow manure, throbbed in a large building behind his barns. As it turned a generator, it was pumping enough renewable power into the local electric grid to supply about 1,200 homes.
“I love that thing!” Mr. Pagel said.