After you have gained some knowledge on appropriate anaerobic digestion technologies for your operation, you are ready to contact technology providers. You may choose to hire a consultant who will guide you through the process of technology provider selection. However, make sure that the consultant is not tied to a specific technology provider. Some technology providers may assist you with project financing, although it is also important to consider all financing options.
The advantage of going with a company that has a large number of successfully operating projects is lower risk. Some of the newer companies offer novel systems that can be advantageous compared to conventional systems, however there is more risk in investing in a newer technology provider. Newer technology providers should be considered, but you need to make sure that technologies have been successfully demonstrated on-farm at a large scale. You should ask to speak with producers who have been involved in demonstrations. Many companies will also have published case studies which they can provide.
A company that specializes in anaerobic digestion of manure may be a good choice. Several companies have emerged who specialize in anaerobic digestion of food and yard wastes collected in urban areas. Manure is very different from these urban wastes, and technologies developed for food and yard waste may not work well for anaerobic digestion of manure.
Many technology providers have regions where they have had a lot of success, and may not be willing to move outside of their current service area. Companies that have experience working in the Mountain West region and are familiar with the challenges associated with working in arid climates may be a more suitable choice.
Some companies may only offer one technology type (i.e. complete mix, plug flow, upflow sludge blanket, or fixed film). Make sure you work with a company that offers technologies suitable to the waste generated at your farm (see above section "Guidance for Anaerobic Digestion Technology Selection" and the online decision support tool).
You need to be sure of what services the company provides, and determine if you will need to find additional support for other services.
Many technology providers have published case studies of their technology. If such publications are available, you should review them. This will help you compare performance of various technologies.
Some technologies will require pretreatment of waste. This can add substantial capital and maintenance costs to operation of an anaerobic digester. One example is pretreatment of waste to remove inorganics (rocks, soil, and/or sand). Make sure you understand the entire process before investing.
Make sure you understand how long it will take to install the system and what the expected lifetime for the system is.
Different technology providers will provide different guarantees and/or warrantees and you should understand the details of those so that you can make comparisons between different companies.
The end-product of anaerobic digestion is a slurry, which can either be land applied or must be disposed of (see Handling of End-Products in Step 1: Understanding Anaerobic Digestion and Consideration of Technical Feasibility). Some technology providers do not provide support for handling of end-products and you need to make sure you consider how you will handle the end product. The costs and maintenance of handling end products must be considered in the project feasibility study. You will need to determine how much support the technology provider or consultants you are working with can provide in this area.
Make sure you understand who will be the project team and that you are comfortable with the design-build process.
Installation of an anaerobic digester will increase maintenance required for animal waste management compared to composting or lagoon management (see Step 5: Maintaining Your Anaerobic Digester). You need to make sure that the technology provider you work with is clear about maintenance activities which will be required after initiation of operation. Anaerobic digester operation will be more successful if the technology provider provides a clear plan for maintenance activities and training on these activities.
As with any large capital investment, it pays to research financing options. Numerous federal and state funding programs that provide grants, reduced interest loans, and/or tax credits for anaerobic digesters. A good place to start your research is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Ag Star website.
Several technology providers offer loans directly for anaerobic digestion projects. The technology provider may also help you to navigate through the numerous federal and state grant or loan programs that are available. The technology provider might be able to connect you with privately funded niche programs, including greenhouse gas mitigation programs.
Your local ag bank may be your best financial resource. While the technology provider might be able to help coordinate project financing, be sure that you fully understand the project financing package offered.
Below follows a list of technology providers at the date of this writing (November, 2011) and information useful to selection. Of note is that this is list contains only those companies that were able to obtain information on and is not an exhaustive list of all technology providers.
For questions or more information, contact Dr. Sybil Sharvelle at Sybil.Sharvelle@Colostate.edu