Energy from Wisconsin cow manure could replace a coal plant

Oct. 9, 2012

According to a recent Wisconsin Bioenergy Initiative (WBI) study, Wisconsin can be a national leader in bioenergy production using waste from the state's prosperous agriculture and food processing sectors.

In dairy cow manure alone, the report found 4.77 million dry tons available per year, which is the potential energy equivalent of replacing a large-scale coal plant.

The report was part of an effort coordinated by the Wisconsin Division of Energy Services with WBI and Baker Tilly to assess the opportunity and effect of renewable energy production in Wisconsin. The report, titled "Wisconsin Strategic Bioenergy Feedstock Assessment," can be downloaded here. 

"Too often biomass assessments only provide a snapshot in time of feedstock quantity," says Gary Radloff, WBI director of Midwest energy policy analysis and project lead. "To filter out barriers and better see what makes strategic sense for Wisconsin, the WBI looked at a combination of biomass quantity, quality, price factors and conversion technologies."

The research identified high-density biomass sources that create opportunities for regional production. These clusters present an opportunity to produce energy from waste without disrupting other state industries.

The waste can be diverted from dairy farms, food processing facilities, landfills and municipal wastewater treatment plants into biogas.

Woody biomass from timber can be used for thermal energy. Corn stover can be used for advanced biofuels and other co-products. Additionally, smaller regional pockets exist for dedicated woody crops and perennial grasses.

According to the Wisconsin State Energy Office's annual energy report, the state spent $18.68 billion in 2009 importing energy to support growing energy demands.

The WBI report explores opportunities to keep that money in state and grow the economy by converting homegrown Wisconsin feedstocks into usable energy. The assessment identifies specific opportunities and determines how they can work in concert with Wisconsin's agriculture, paper and timber industries.

"With no fossil fuel resources in Wisconsin, it is imperative to evaluate the state's bioenergy resources. In order to accomplish this we engaged an inclusive stakeholder group at every stage of assessment development," says Kevin Vesperman, division of energy services administrator in the Wisconsin Department of Administration. "These reports provide the essential information for moving plans forward whether you're a food manufacturer, farmer or biomass developer."

For more information, click here.

- By Eric Anderson