New plan details Wisconsin’s potential to turn millions of exported energy dollars into revenues

March 28, 2011

A collaboration of researchers, business leaders, policymakers and industry experts has identified a plan for capitalizing on the biogas energy opportunity in Wisconsin. The strategic plan, titled "The Biogas Opportunity in Wisconsin," was released today and can be downloaded at http://www.wbi.wisc.edu/policy-analysis/.

Biogas is a product of anaerobic digestion, a process that decomposes organic matter like manure, crops or food waste to produce biogas and other byproducts. The gas can be combusted to produce electricity or combined heat and power, cleaned and upgraded to pipeline quality gas for injection into existing natural gas systems or cleaned to create compressed natural gas for vehicle fuels.

While Wisconsin leads the nation with 31 anaerobic digesters, there is ample opportunity to expand homegrown energy use throughout the state. The plan, published by the Wisconsin Bioenergy Initiative (WBI), is the first step in a comprehensive series of efforts to bring more biogas systems to farms, communities and food processing facilities statewide.

"As this report shows, biogas can represent economic opportunities for rural Wisconsin — a new revenue stream for farmers, reduced costs for food processors and new jobs for rural communities," says Wisconsin Secretary of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection Ben Brancel. "The examples of new partnerships and innovations reported here can be a real boon to agriculture and our food industry, both of which are vital to Wisconsin's economy."

Biogas is a natural extension of Wisconsin's showcase dairy sector and thriving food processing industry. Annually, the state spends an estimated $16-$18 billion for energy to run businesses, power and heat homes, and fuel vehicles. Utilizing waste streams to create energy from biogas would help build and retain wealth within the state.

"Wisconsin is positioned to be a leader in turning waste products into renewable biogas energy," says Gary Radloff, WBI director of Midwest energy policy analysis and author of the report. "Implementing the report recommendations and establishing more biogas production plants could lead to greater rural wealth accumulation and new job creation."

Next month, the stakeholder group will meet again to form action plans around specific recommendations in the report.