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Dane County to study food waste digester

Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk announced Monday the county next year will launch a feasibility study for a food waste digester that could produce up to $4 million in local green energy.

“We’re currently earning $3 million a year for taxpayers by turning methane from trash at our county landfill into green electricity,” Falk said in a press release.  “Now we want to further tap into the great financial and energy potential of all the food that gets thrown away from businesses, schools, hospitals and homes.”

Construction and operation of a new Dane County food waste digester would create an estimated 45 jobs, according to the release. The facility, a first for the state, would convert old food into biogas that could either be combusted in generators and turned into electricity or converted into natural gas. Byproducts of the process could be packaged as compost for gardens.

Dane County on Monday started receiving proposals from firms interested in conducting the feasibility study and developing an initial site design. Proposals are due Jan. 21.

The feasibility study will be completed by Sept. 1. Work will be paid for with money from the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Dane County received under the federal stimulus bill.

The county’s landfill receives approximately 200,000 tons of material every year, which includes 30,000 tons of food waste.

In addition to exploring the potential of food waste, Dane County is also scheduling with Clear Horizons LLC and their strategic partner, SCC Americas, construction of a privately owned and operated community manure digester to be shared among several farms in the Waunakee area.

This first-of-its-kind effort would generate electricity for 2,500 homes, provide around $2 million per year in green energy and remove the bulk of the lake algae-growing phosphorus found in manure, according to the release.

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