Switch flipped: UWO biodigester producing energy

Posted on October 17, 2011. Filed under: Biomass, Digesters, Sustainability |

From an article in the UW Oshkosh Today:

The switch has effectively been flipped on the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh’s groundbreaking alternative power plant that generates energy from plant and food waste.

The UW Oshkosh anaerobic dry fermentation biodigester, first of its kind in the western hemisphere, began producing energy on Oct. 3.

Gas produced as a result of decomposition of agricultural plant and food waste loaded into and stored in the facility’s airless chambers since late summer reached an optimal point for energy-production startup. On Oct. 3, the faculty, staff and student team running the plant activated on-site turbine engines, combusting the gas and harvesting and selling energy.

The renewable energy facility is expected to initially produce up to 5 percent of the campus’ electricity and heat.

Greg Kleinheinz, UW Oshkosh professor of microbiology, said the biodigester has been running in an off-and-on mode over the course of its startup. Plant overseers continue to work with partner engineering firms to calibrate computer software and to fine tune energy production.

“The facility is producing quite a bit of gas right now, so it is a computer-control issue and not a mechanical or biological issue limiting the CHP (combined power and heat) usage,” Kleinheinz said.

Energy produced by the power generation is being sold back to the grid through regional utilities. The revenue realized over time will vary based on the level of gas production and power purchase agreements with Wisconsin Public Service, Kleinheinz said. It will ultimately support student scholarship and academic program enhancements at UW Oshkosh.


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