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12/27/07 Renewable Energy Plans that Fit Rock County


Wisconsin Dairy farmers find money in manure

‘Digesters’ use methane to make, sell electricity and reduce pollutionwimr10101270431.hmedium.jpg

Gary Boyke shows off a methane digester on his dairy farm near Fond du Lac, Wis. It takes cow manure and turns it into energy.


MILWAUKEE - When dairy farmer Gary Boyke looks out at the manure his herd produces, he sees the prospect of profits rather than waste, odors and water pollution.

Boyke is one of a growing number of farmers turning animal waste into energy, and he’s spreading the word to others. He will be among those giving presentations at a conference Tuesday in Madison on ways farmers can turn manure into money.

Boyke, who has 1,300 cows on his Vir-Clar Farm near Fond du Lac, said he gets two to three times the energy he needs with an anaerobic digester, which uses bacteria on manure to produce a gas containing methane to power generators.

He sells it to a Madison-based utility and then buys back what he needs. He said the device produces enough power for 330 homes.

“I think we’re just on the verge of something that is going to be big in the future,” he said.

This story is from MSNBC. CLICK HERE to read the whole article.



Renewable Energy Options That Fit Rock County

Rock County Wisconsin is rich in renewable energy options. Combine this with its infrastructure resources in agriculture, industry, education, and commerce, and Rock County is poised to become a leader in Wisconsin’s commitment to reach our shared goals of reducing energy consumption and cutting our green house gas emissions 25% by 2025. Rock County can do its part by concentrating its resources towards the research and implementation of renewable energy options that focus on solar and bioenergy/biofuel resources. Industrial Wind energy should not be considered for Rock County as it is a poor fit for populated rural communities.

Wind turbines do not provide reliable steady power and need a conventionally generated back up system to work on the grid. This brings into question their ability to effectively reduce green house gas emissions. Wind turbines are only used to generate electricity, which only accounts for 39% of fossil fuel consumption, while biofuels and solar energy are multiple use renewable energies, which can provide heat, electricity, and ethanol/methane. Industrial wind turbines facilities require ever-larger infrastructure commitments that fragment country sides, wildlife habitats, and rural communities. Solar and biofuel technologies are consistently getting smaller, lighter, and more efficient, can be installed as discretely as needed, and can provide additional benefits to the installation site and surrounding areas by improving air, water, and aesthetic qualities as well as community relationships. Given the size of industrial turbines today, the extent to which their health and safety impacts spill onto neighboring properties, and their intermittent generation nature, Wisconsin and Rock County would serve it citizens better by pursuing safe and reliable energy sources such as biofuels and solar power.

Wind Energy Resource Map of the United States.

NAS Report: Wind Energy in U.S. Growing, But Planning and Guidelines Are Lacking.

A Problem With Wind Power By: Eric Rosenbloom

Solar and biofuel energy systems are already operating in the state and county in a variety of systems with popular acceptance by the public. They often require no additional industrial scale infrastructure investment by the government leaving landscapes intact, make use of existing structures, machinery, and skill sets, and provide the potential to generate renewable energy resources from marginal land and unproductive space. The largest hurdle for potential solar and biofuel energy users, commercial and residential, is securing the initial investment capital. Long term financial commitments in an era of short term mortgages and volatile markets may mean a larger role for cooperative state and federal efforts along with utilities to provide solar and biofuel energy systems. Additional funding from controversial remote generation and transmission system proposals, along with Production Tax Credit earmarks could be redirected towards dependable and dispatchable solar and biofuel energy systems     

Biofuel is all around us in the base form of biomass. Wisconsin is blessed with a rich and diverse natural heritage that creates a lot of biomass annually. This rich natural heritage is expressed today in our scenic beauty, diverse natural areas, and agricultural wealth. Biomass sources include native tallgrass and prairie plants, crop residues and animal manures, invasive weed species and diseased trees in parks and natural areas, and methane recapture from landfills and waste water treatment facilities. The biomass and biofuel potential of Wisconsin and Rock County is enormous, with the state’s potential reaching 13,336,273 tons in excess biomass, 250-500 thousand tons of that coming from Rock County.

Biofuels’ or bioenergy’s greater potential is that not only will it provide safe dependable energy but that if we as a society use biofuels correctly, use our resources sustainably, we will create a cleaner and healthier county and state.

Our native prairies in southern Wisconsin can produce around 4 tons of biofuel per acre per year, either by replacing coal in a conventional power plant, being turned into fuel pellets for heat or electricity generation, or in ethanol production initially to replace natural gas usage in processing, and eventually in cellulosic ethanol production. Prairies are created, managed, and maintained by fires, either wild or those set by people. This annual natural emission of combustible fuels can be harvested sustainably and converted into renewable energy resulting in a zero emission balance as the plants were grown consuming their own CO2 emission that year. In fact since prairie plants have deep extensive root systems they can actually sequester one ton of carbon per five acres of prairie per year helping to clean our atmosphere and return fertility to our soils. Part of this sequestration comes from the fact that prairie plants are perennials that require no cultivation after initial planting. Reducing the amount of soil exposed to the sun, wind, and atmospheric oxygen, which reduces the amount of carbon lost to the atmosphere through volitization every year.

Cellulose Prairie, Biomass Fuel Potential in Wisconsin and     
              The Midwest. April 2007, Brett Hulsey, Better
              Environmental Solutions Contact: 608-238-6070 or

The Role of Native Grasses in Wisconsin's Bio-energy Economy
Jonathan Barry
Pamela A. Porter

Grassbioenergy.org Frequently Asked Questions.

Waste to watts, Northern Minnesota company to gasify grass seed chaff. By: E.M. Morrison

Prairie buries greenhouse gas component. By: Roser Matamala http://www.fnal.gov/pub/today/archive_2006/today06-06-14.html

Biomass can also be harvested off of roadsides, public and private right-of-ways creating an income resource where before there was only a management liability. The control of weedy, diseased, and invasive species along hedgerows, in natural areas, and parklands can now be funded through beneficial renewable energy production harvest with no additional tax burden to citizens.

While taking advantage of Rock County’s natural biomass to limit County CO2 emissions, there are just as important biomass resources surrounding methane production and recapture in the county. Methane is produced when organic matter breaks down in the absence of oxygen. Methane is a greenhouse gas of more concern than CO2. Wisconsin’s main sources of methane come from cow and livestock manures, landfill, and waste water treatment plants. Additional sources could include food processing/grocery store waste, along with landscape waste in the form of green grass clippings. The main method for methane recapture, other than in landfill situations, is to use an anaerobic digester to harvest methane from the manure. A manure digester creates an energy source and savings from a management cost and liability. The air, land, and water benefit from this closing of an energy loophole.

http://www.agriview.com/articles/2007/03/15/dairy_news/producer01.txt  Eighteen Manure Digesters in Wisconsin, Room for    
               More. By Ron Johnson Dairy Editor
http://www.wrn.com/gestalt/go.cfm?objectid=245FDFFC-F6B5-F5BA-8928120D9143A192 Exploring the potential of cow manure    
                                       By: Jackie Johnson

“With an anaerobic digester, you can turn livestock waste into a clean, renewable source of electricity for your farm - reducing manure management costs and lowering your utility bills”.
Source: http://www.alliantenergy.com/docs/groups/public/documents/pub/p014727.hcsp

Methane Gas Recovery
Environmental Benefits of Methane Gas Recovery
    •     Biogas can produce electricity and heat offsetting a farm's energy costs and reducing the need for other fuels. This, in turn, reduces pollution that comes from drilling, mining, transporting and burning and reduces carbon dioxide—another major contributor to global climate change.
    •     Digestion reduces the potential for surface and ground water contamination.
    •     Collecting biogas prevents the methane from releasing into the atmosphere and becoming a powerful greenhouse gas.
    •     Anaerobic digestion typically decreases the volume of manure solids by more than 90 percent. The remaining biosolids are an extremely high quality fertilizer.


Continued and additional State and Federal investment in bioenergy research and infrastructure is critical in realizing the full extent of the natural energy potential growing at Wisconsin’s and Rock County’s grassroots.

Posted on Thursday, December 27, 2007 at 01:39PM by Registered CommenterThe BPRC Research Nerd | Comments Off

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