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Dane County: Cow-power project moves forward
11/9/2009

Contact: Joshua Wescott, Office of the County Executive (608) 267-8823 or cell (608) 669-5606

Clear Horizons Wins Approval for Next Phase of State’s First Community Manure Digester

The final decision on construction go-ahead is still a couple months away, but the Dane County Cow-Power Project has taken another major step forward. Dane County announced today that Wisconsin-based biogas energy developer Clear Horizons LLC. and their strategic partner SCC Americas have been selected to enter into negotiations for development of the Waunakee-area manure digester project.

Three Waunakee dairy farms are the first cluster of farms in Wisconsin to develop a community digester and one of a small number of digesters in the nation slated to remove much of the algae-producing phosphorous. Each dairy and Dane County has signed a letter of intent with Clear Horizons and SCC Americas.

“Our Cow-Power Project will help grow family dairies and help clean lakes in Dane County,” said Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk. “By focusing our efforts to reduce algae-producing phosphorus and create green electricity, our Cow-Power Project means clean lakes for our citizens to enjoy, reduced greenhouse gas emissions and local, good-paying green jobs.”

If given final approval, the project would be built and operated by Clear Horizons LLC. and SCC Americas, a worldwide developer of greenhouse gas emission reduction projects. Clear Horizons and SCC Americas will work with Dane County and the three area farms to develop a proposed design and schedule for project construction, and identify the best site and layout for the project.

The Dane County Cow-Power Project will be built by private and public funding. In addition to private financing provided by SCC Americas, project financing of $3.3 million to remove much of the phosphorus from the manure has been awarded by the State of Wisconsin as a result of Governor Jim Doyle’s request and the Legislature’s approval of $6.6 million for two community manure digesters that will aid Dane County’s efforts to clean up the lakes, strengthen the dairy industry and increase production of renewable energy.

Falk noted that 400 Dane County dairy farms and 50,000 dairy cows produce not only lots of milk that results in a $700 million dairy industry and 4,000 jobs, but over 2 billion pounds of manure each year that can harm area lakes and streams. Algae-producing phosphorus is the biggest cause of pollution that turns our lakes green, but for the first time Waunakee-area farms using a manure digester with advance separation technology will remove much of the phosphorus.

“When successful, this is a model that can be replicated throughout Wisconsin, the upper Midwest and the nation, “ Falk said.

Because of the methane released by untreated manure, digesters are also recognized for their contribution in controlling greenhouse gases. According to the county-funded Strand Associates Community Manure Management Plan, the potential methane emission reduction from eliminating the long-term lagoon storage of the manure is estimated at approximately 20,000 metric tons per year of equivalent CO2. This is equivalent to the CO2 emissions from driving approximately 50 million miles/year.

From a farming perspective, the digester substantially lessens the need to spread the manure on distant fields, which requires a lot of land and generates environmental problems, especially if spreading has to occur in the winter or spring. Importantly, the digester also significantly reduces the odor associated with manure.

“Our community digester will not only help ensure the future of family dairy farms, but also help keep phosphorous out of our lakes," said Richard Endres, a Waunakee-area dairy farmer participating in the project.

It is estimated that the project will produce approximately $2-million of green electricity every year - enough energy to power over 2,500 homes in Dane County. Building the digester will create about 25 good-paying, green construction jobs while additional positions will be created to operate it.

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