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Dane County, UW-Oshkosh in a race for waste

By Ann Knoedler

The University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and Dane County (Madison) are both planning the construction of food/yard waste biodigestors that will convert food waste into electricity.

The UW-Oshkosh Foundation received construction bids June 15 for its proposed dry fermentation anaerobic (without oxygen) biodigester facility.

Bids are currently under review for the approximately $2.3 million project, and the university intends to make an announcement once the successful contractor is finalized. The project received a $500,000 grant from the federal government and a $232,587 grant from Wisconsin Focus on Energy.

BIOfirm Energy Systems, which has an office in Madison, will provide the technology.

Dane County, on the other hand, recently selected the engineering firm of AECOM to conduct a feasibility study and initial facility design for their food/yard waste digester project. If the Dane County Board of Supervisors approves the selection of AECOM at its Thursday, July 15, meeting, Phase 1 of the study could be completed by this fall.

Phase 1 of the study will identify initial feedstock (the source of the food waste) and develop an economic model. Phase 2 of the study calls for additional feedstock and economic analysis. Phase 3 calls for planning and initial design.

Dane County received a $300,000 grant for the three-phase study from the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant program, a component of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The county is waiting to see how much this will cost before making any decisions regarding construction.

The news reports and press releases that have come out regarding these two projects include claims of “first of its kind in Wisconsin” and “first of its kind in the nation.”

It looks like UW-Oshkosh is probably going to have one built before Dane County since it already has construction bids in hand.

Either way, it really doesn’t matter who has “the first” because we all win when waste is diverted from landfills and we have an earth friendly source of electricity and heat.

Ann Knoedler is the lead data reporter at The Daily Reporter. She can be reached at (414) 225-1822.

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