According to King County Executive Dow Constantine, there are about 1,800 farms in the county that generate more than $125 million in annual product sales.
"These farmers provide locally grown wholesome foods for our increasingly popular farmers' markets, giving us all a greater appreciation for the work farmers do to feed our families," he said.
To that end, the development and funding of a manure digester that will turn cow waste into green energy as well as various agricultural products, all the while helping to reduce the emission of methane into the atmosphere, is a win-win for all.
Three weeks worth of processing manure in a million-gallon tank makes enough electricity to power 600 homes, said Constantine. "This eliminates the manure lagoon methane emissions while creating clean electricity. In total, we'll reduce green house gas emissions by the equivalent of 9,000 tons of CO2 (carbon dioxide) per year, roughly the same as removing 2,200 cars from our highways."
Kevin Maas of Farm Power Northwest said that King County has been working with area farmers on a digester project for at least 10 years but no one had stepped up to develop or finance the project. Maas' company came into it in 2008 and offered to build on the existing work done and get the project going.
According to The Courier-Herald, Maas' Farm Power Northwest, in partnership with at least three local dairy farms in the Enumclaw area, formed Rainier Biogas, which will build and operate the digester.
The project is located on the property of Jim Ritter, a dairy farmer. Ritter said he'd been involved in the project since King County first sent someone out to do a study on the benefits of a digester.
Maas explained his company's role. "We go to an area, we find farmers who want to work with us, find financing and then where we break ground, we then ask Andgar (www.andgar.com) to build us a manure digester," he said. "It takes them about six months. They put together a one-million to one-and-a-half million gallon concrete tank, all the heating equipment and the engine generator that runs from the Biogas. At the end of six months, they turn it over to us, and we run it for the next 30 years.
We have a very long-term business plan and it involves lots of manure, lots of years and lots of green power."
The effort is backed by local investors and "allows local people to own a little piece of energy production rather than having energy come from some place far away that is owned by a faceless company," he said.
King County Conservation worked with local farmers, Washington State University developed the technology for manure processing, the state of Washington helped with funding, the U.S. Department of Commerce had a hand, and Puget Sound Energy's Green Power program will be purchasing the energy generated from the digester, Maas said.
From the County, Constantine said the Department of Natural Resources in 2007 was given a $492,000 Congressional grant that was sponsored by U.S. Sen. Maria Cantell and U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert for this specific purpose. The county conducted a bid process and selected Rainier Biogas as the project developer.
The County also secured a $160,000 federal Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant, said Constantine. He further thanked One Pacific Coast Bank, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Andgar Corporation for their collaboration in this effort.
Ceremony marks beginning of manure digester project near Enumclaw (The Courier-Herald)