Badger Blog Alliance

Sic Semper Tyrannis

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

When all you've got is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.

When all you've got is…um...well…
Wisconsin boasts most manure-to-energy projects

When it comes to generating renewable energy, Wisconsin lacks the high winds of the Great Plains and the steady sunlight of Arizona, but it has one abundant resource few others can match - cow power.

Although renewable energy makes up only a fraction of the state's total energy mix, one area that's growing fast is systems that convert cow manure into electricity and heat.

… Wisconsin leads the country in anaerobic digesters with 19 projects. California is second, with 16.
The story profiles the Crave Brothers dairy farm in Waterloo, where they're planning to add a second anaerobic digester. It doesn't say just how much of their electric bill is offset by burning cowpies.

This was interesting:
The manure is stored in large concrete tanks. When heated, the manure is converted into a biogas that is composed of 55% to 70% methane. The methane is then used to power a turbine or engine to produce electricity. Excess heat is used to heat farm buildings…
…Wisconsin's leadership role in renewable energy is being challenged as other states deploy the digester systems, which help reduce waste runoff into streams and minimize odors.
And why is our "leadership role in renewable energy" being challenged?
At the moment, other states are more competitive than Wisconsin in attracting investment in the systems, either through special electricity rates, tax incentives or both.
Huh. Go figure.
California, which supplanted Wisconsin as the biggest dairy state several years ago, could soon overtake the state in anaerobic digesters.
Yeah, well, we always knew California was more full of it than we are.

These anaerobic digesters go way beyond making lemons into lemonade. They solve or alleviate several different problems all at once. We should keep in mind, though: unless the technology advances to the point that even family farms can use them (care to replace your septic tank?), this will be just one more advantage for the really big farms.