BOWNE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — An agreement between Consumers Energy and Swisslane Farms will bring a new biodigester facility to Alto to convert agricultural waste into clean, renewable natural gas (RNG).

RNG is renewable fuel, interchangeable with conventional natural gas. It is produced from organic wastes and other renewable sources to help heat Michigan homes, power stoves and dry grain for farmers. Consumers Energy said the new biodigester could produce enough RNG annually to heat nearly 1,000 homes on a winter day.

Under the agreement, Swisslane Farms will provide manure from its dairy cows to the production facility instead of storing it in open lagoons, producing methane. When in the facility, the closed biodigester will contain the manure and capture the methane to be cleaned and conditioned. The cleaned methane will then be placed in existing gas pipelines.

“This project is an exciting first step in a cleaner natural gas future for our customers,” Greg Salisbury, Consumers Energy’s vice president of gas engineering and supply, said. “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.”

The $17 million project, which requires regulatory approval, could start production as soon as late 2023.