Co. Exec. Falk, farmers help start Dane County “Cow Power” facility

Posted on December 17, 2010. Filed under: Biomass, Digesters | Tags: , |

With the push of a button by Dane County Exec. Falk, the innovative facility north of Waunakee began the process of converting manure into electricity, instead of pollution.

From a news release issued by Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk:

Dane County’s first “Cow Power” facility officially started operating today, as County Executive Kathleen Falk, representatives of Clear Horizons (the private operator), and the three farm families partnering on the project pushed a button to start filling the first manure digester tank.

Once this one-million gallon tank is full (in approximately two weeks), the manure will be heated and the process of converting it into electricity for homes and compost for gardens will begin. The facility is expected to begin producing electricity for sale to Alliant Energy in February.

The Dane County “Cow Power” facility will generate about $2-million worth of electricity each year – – enough to run 2,500 Dane County homes. It also includes first-of-its-kind equipment slated to remove much of the algae-producing phosphorous from the manure.

“Today begins the next exciting step in this innovative project – – turning a whole lot of cow manure into a valuable commodity for our homes and businesses and keeping it out of our lakes,” Falk said. “Thanks to the unique design of this one-of-a-kind digester, manure from 2,500 cows will go into powering our homes instead of polluting our waters.”

Dane County and a Wisconsin company, Clear Horizons are partnering on this project with three family farms in the Towns of Vienna and Dane – – the Ripps’, the Endres’ and the Maiers’. This digester is the first in the state to be shared by a cluster of several farmers and one of only a handful in the country to substantially remove pollutants that cause algae and weed growth in local lakes. That primary pollutant is phosphorus which studies have shown is the leading cause of green algae and other weed growth in Dane County’s lakes.

Today’s start of operations culminates years of pioneering work by County Executive Falk, the farm families and Clear Horizons to build this unique digester.

Michael Vickerman, RENEW Wisconsin’s executive director, attended the ceremony.

Governor Doyle included $6.6 million in the 2009-11 state budget so two new Dane County “Cow Power” facilities would have additional phosphorus removal technology not used in other digesters in the state. To date, private dollars from Clear Horizons has funded the $12 million total project cost. Once the project is fully operational, half of the state funding ($3.3 million) will be used to pay for the phosphorus removal equipment while the other half will go for a second digester. No county dollars were used.

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Two developments on manure digesters for small farms

Posted on November 22, 2010. Filed under: Biomass, Digesters |

From a news release issued by Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk:

Town of Springfield Farms Working to Share New Manure Digester, Generate $2-Million in Electricity Each Year

Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk announced today the county is working with several farmers northwest of Middleton on construction of a second “Cow Power” facility that will convert manure into electricity and stop the runoff of pollutants into local lakes.

Four dairy farm families in the Town of Springfield intend to partner with the county and Clear Horizons to develop the new facility. When complete, it’s expected to generate about $2-million worth of electricity each year – – enough to power roughly 2,500 Dane County homes.

From an article by Kevin Murphy in the Telegraph Herald, Dubuque, Iowa:

UW-Platteville to test demo of digester for small dairy farms

PLATTEVILLE, Wis. — Pioneer Farm at University of Wisconsin-Platteville touts itself as a state-of-the-art agricultural research facility. However, it’s been lacking renewable energy systems that have become an increasing area of importance in agribusiness.

That changed Wednesday when the State Building Commission approved a $1.18 million bio-energy project that will produce about 7.5 percent of the campus’ electricity needs from the university’s 160-head dairy herd.

Anaerobic digesters, which turn manure into methane used to generate electrical power, typically need 600 cows to reach a break-even point. The Pioneer Farm digester will show that process can be economically feasible on a much smaller scale.

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Doyle announces $550,000 for digester at MontChevre Cheese

Posted on October 11, 2010. Filed under: Digesters |

From a news release issued by Governor Jim Doyle:

Company to Install Anaerobic Digester and Create 13 Jobs

MADISON – Governor Jim Doyle today announced a $550,000 loan for Betin Incorporated from the State Energy Program (SEP). Department of Commerce Secretary Aaron Olver and Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection Secretary Randy Romanski made the announcement today in Belmont on behalf of the Governor.

“In Wisconsin, we are taking the lead to not only address environmental challenges, but also to find opportunities for innovation and growth,” Governor Doyle said. “I’m pleased that we could help Betin, Inc. install technology to use renewable energy and cut costs.”

“We are grateful to operate in a state where our Governor and Department of Commerce recognize the need to encourage and support private projects like ours that build environmentally-sound solutions to manufacturing,” said company President Arnaud Solandt. “The loan will allow us to expand further and create new jobs within the community.”

The SEP loan is funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Betin, Inc. is one of the nation’s largest goat-cheese manufacturers using the trade name Montchevre. It will install an anaerobic digester to process whey and waste water. The resulting methane will be used to help meet up to 80 percent of the company’s energy needs. The project will create 13 jobs and represent total investment of $3.5 million.

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Touring this year’s renewable energy crop

Posted on September 28, 2010. Filed under: Digesters, Energy Policy, Solar, Wind |

by Michael Vickerman, RENEW Wisconsin
September 27, 2010

One of the abiding pleasures of my job at RENEW Wisconsin is going out into the field to visit renewable energy installations. Many of the systems sprouting across the state owe their existence to state and federal policies that make these systems economically viable to their owners.

In turn, some of those policies owe their existence to RENEW, an advocacy organization that has elevated the Wisconsin renewable energy marketplace from a dreamy aspiration to a thriving marketplace employing hundreds of people and generating millions of dollars a year in local revenues.

Whenever I’m asked to describe our mission, I often say that we act as a catalyst for advancing a sustainable energy future in Wisconsin. Our vision of that future places small, entrepreneurial companies at the center of the transition toward clean, locally available energy resources that do not deplete over time.

RENEW endeavors to steer Wisconsin along this path through policy mechanisms that help renewable energy businesses establish themselves in an economy that for many decades has operated almost exclusively on fossil energy. Because of that dependence on concentrated energy sources like coal, natural gas and liquid hydrocarbons, which are still priced very cheaply, the shift to renewable energy has been an uphill battle. The incumbent energy sources are well-entrenched and will not hesitate to expend significant political capital to block policy initiatives aimed at putting renewable energy on a more equal playing field. (more…)

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Webinar — Rethinking Biogas: An Emerging Energy Source in the Midwest

Posted on September 17, 2010. Filed under: Biomass, Digesters |

From an announcement issued by the Energy Center of Wisconsin:

Free live webinar
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
1:00pm – 2:00pm CDT

Presented by Peter Taglia, Staff Scientist, Clean Wisconsin

The Midwest contains the world’s largest concentration of productive agriculture and food processing, and produces enormous amounts of animal and food waste. The Midwest is also rich in woody biomass and other forestry resources that can be sustainably harvested.

However, only a tiny portion of these wastes is converted to biogas, a renewable substitute for natural gas that reduces fossil fuel use and greenhouse gas pollution. For agricultural waste alone, the Midwest’s 55 anaerobic digesters pale in comparison to Germany’s, which exceed 4,000 despite its significantly smaller agricultural output.

This webinar explores the potential for this renewable energy resource to grow by examining biogas sources, conversion technologies, and outputs together with energy policies needed to support them. With appropriate policy and deployment, biogas can become a substantial source of energy in the Midwest.

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Seats still available on the Fond du Lac energy efficiency and renewable energy tour

Posted on July 23, 2010. Filed under: Digesters, Energy Efficiency, Renewable energy - generally |

From a news release issued by UW-Cooperative Extension, Fond du Lac County:

The public is invited to attend a Local Energy Tour on Saturday, July 31st from 8:30 am – noon organized by the Fond du Lac County and the Green Lake County UW-Extension offices.

Fond du Lac County businesses have made this area a unique place to learn about cutting edge energy technologies, and the tour allows participants a chance to see these technologies in action and learn what difference they are making in the financial, environmental, and social bottom lines of these companies. Participants will also discuss the land use consequences of energy production and ways to minimize the negative consequences and maximize the economic benefits.

This guided bus tour will visit:
• Mercury Marine
• Wildlife Acres subdivision
• Vir-Clar Dairy
• Cedar Ridge Wind Farm
• Pheasant Run
• a home with a geothermal pond system installed.

Energy use is a serious economic concern for our region, state, and nation.

• Wisconsin residents spent $22.5 billion in 2008 on imported fossil fuels. This amounts to $9000 per household.

• Unfortunately, it is the energy sources on which we are most dependent right now (coal, oil, & natural gas) that are becoming increasingly volatile in price and limited in availability around the world.

• The only energy expenditures that stay in-state is the amount spent on renewables, because that is the only type of energy we are able to produce locally.

• Only 4.5% of our total energy use in Wisconsin comes from renewable, locally-produced fuels.

A virtual tour including pictures, video, and fact sheets about the sites is available online at www.SustainFDLCounty.org.

Limited seating is available. The tour will begin at and return to Prairie Fest on the campus of UW-Fond du Lac, rain or shine. Email Diana.Tscheschlok@ces.uwex.edu or call 920.929.3173, 920.748.7565, or 920.324.2879 to register.

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Utility offers rate to buy agricultural biogas in pilot

Posted on June 2, 2010. Filed under: Biomass, Digesters |

From a news release issued by WPS:

Green Bay, WI – Wisconsin Public Service Corporation (WPS) recently received approval from the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin to begin a pilot program to purchase electricity generated from agricultural biogas. In the pilot program, WPS will accept up to 10,000 kilowatts generated from new anaerobic digester operations (no more than 2,000 kilowatts from a single generator) within its service territory. The rate will encourage the development of this renewable resource which will allow WPS to better understand the costs and benefits associated with this type of power purchase, and at the same time provide environmental benefits.

Farmers interested in the program must sign a contract with WPS prior to January 1, 2013.

“Increasing the number of renewable resources is unquestionably good for the environment,” said Dennis Derricks, WPS Director of Electric Regulatory Policy. “This tariff is another way to partner with our agricultural customers to find solutions the benefit both parties.” Digesters help the farmers with solutions to dealing with vast amounts of waste, while the utility receives another source of renewable energy.

Derricks said WPS has several current digester operations within its territory and this new rate offers “another pricing option specifically for these types of operations.” Derricks said the existing contracts were fitted under tariffs not specifically designed for this application.

Farm digester operations sell power to the utility and then buy back what they need at regular rates for farm use.

The new rate is called PG-BioGas, is offered until December 31, 2012 (or until fully subscribed: 10 MW) and is in effect now. The maximum project cap is 2 MW, with an on-peak rate of approx. $0.106/kWh, an off-peak rate of approx. $0.061/kWh, which yields an effective (24 hour) rate of $0.0807/kWh. All environmental attributes from generation purchased under this rate will be claimed by WPS.

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Clearing up Wisconsin’s lakes with clean energy

Posted on February 17, 2010. Filed under: Biomass, Climate change, Digesters, Energy Policy |

From a commentary by Michael Vickerman, RENEW’s executive director:

In the next six weeks the Legislature will make a truly momentous decision on the state’s energy future. Either it can embrace an ambitious 15-year commitment to invigorate the state’s economy through sustained investments in clean energy or decide to coast along on current energy policies until they lapse and lose their force and effect.

Arguably the most innovative feature in the Clean Energy Jobs Act, as it’s now called, is a proposed requirement on larger electric providers to acquire locally produced renewable electricity with Advanced Renewable Tariffs (ARTs). These are technology-specific buyback rates that provide a fixed purchase price for the electricity produced over a period of 10 to 20 years, set at levels sufficient to recover installation costs along with a modest profit. Now available in more than a dozen nations in Europe as well as the Province of Ontario, ARTs have proven to be singularly effective in stimulating considerable growth in small-scale production of distributed renewable electricity. . . .

Consider the much-vaunted Dane County Cow Power Project, which should be operational before the end of the year. Using anaerobic digestion technology, this Waunakee-area installation will treat manure from three nearby dairy farms and produce biogas that will fuel a two-megawatt generator. This community digester project, the first of its kind in Wisconsin, will be built with private capital and a State of Wisconsin award to support a technology that reduces the flow of phosphorus into the Yahara Lakes. A second digester project is also planned for Dane County.

The key element that makes the financing of this project work is the special biogas buyback rate that Alliant Energy, the local utility, voluntarily put in place a year ago. With the higher rate, the project’s return on investment was sufficient to interest outside investors. . . .

If we are serious about neutralizing the algae blooms that turn the Yahara lakes green each year, we’ll need to adopt a clean energy policy, including ARTs, that facilitates the development of biodigesters in farm country.

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Biodigester near Denmark to turn waste into usable products

Posted on February 8, 2010. Filed under: Digesters |

From an article by Richard Ryman in the Green Bay Press Gazette:

NEW DENMARK — It looks like a big cement box and in operation resembles a cow’s stomach, but a commercial anaerobic biodigester under construction just southeast of Denmark will fill a lot of roles.

NEW Organic Digestion, owned by American Foods Group and the people who own Northern Concrete, is building the facility primarily to dispose of byproducts from American Foods’ operations in Green Bay.

The project will cost between $5 million and $6 million, said co-owner Rob Larsen. The biodigester will hold a little more than 2 million gallons working its way through the tank on a 22-day cycle. Larsen said they will be able to add 60 to 100 tons to the process daily. They expect to put it into service in March.

The process will result in several products, including methane gas, electricity, heat and waste solids that can be used for cattle bedding or other purposes.
Larsen said his family, dad John Larsen in particular, have been land-applying paunch manure for American Foods for years.

Paunch manure is partially digested food, usually consumed the same day the cow is slaughtered. The waste includes wash water and unused fats.

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Potawatomi get funding for renewable projects

Posted on February 5, 2010. Filed under: Biomass, Digesters, Solar, Wind |

From a news release issued by the U.S. Department of Energy:

U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu this week announced the selection of five projects to receive a combined US $20.5 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to support deployment of community-based renewable energy projects including biomass, wind and solar installations.

“Smaller, more localized renewable energy systems need to play a role in our comprehensive energy portfolio,” Secretary Chu said. “These projects will help create jobs, expand our clean energy economy, and help us cut carbon pollution at the local level. . . .”

Projects selected for awards:

The Forest County Potawatomi Tribe in Wisconsin will install a 1.25-MW biomass combined heat and power facility that will provide heating, cooling and electricity, a 150-kW biogas digester and generation facility, as well as three 100-kW wind turbines and three dual-axis 2.88 kW solar PV panels located at the Tribe’s Governmental Center using $2.5 million from DOE.

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