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Wednesday, January 7, 2009

UWP professors explore feasibility of anaerobic digester

The larger of the two tanks digests the manure at the Five Star Dairy near Eau Claire. Photo by Ed Blume, RENEW Wisconsin

From an article in the Daily Pioneer (Platteville):

PLATTEVILLE - Tim Zauche, associate professor of chemistry and engineering physics at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, wants manure from area dairy farms. But he just wants to borrow it.

Zauche and Christopher Baxter, UWP associate professor of agriculture, met with about 25 Grant and Lafayette county dairy farmers on Monday, Jan. 5, to discuss the feasibility of building an anaerobic digester in the region. The digester would collect methane gas from cow manure. The methane could be converted into a variety of useable energy sources.

"The university is interested in anaerobic digesters because we're striving to become more sustainable," Zauche said. "We're looking to become more independent of our energy needs from other places."

The project is just in the exploratory stage. Details of the project - including who would own the digester, where it would be located, what would be expected of participating farmers and a number of more technical details - need to be worked out, Zauche said.

Zauche said that the digester would need to process manure from at least 500 cows to be economically feasible. That could be reduced somewhat if the digester also processes production waste from several area cheese factories. Baxter said that the UWP Pioneer Farm plans to increase its herd to 300 cows, which includes dairy cows and a planned expansion of its beef herd.

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