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Monday, March 16, 2009

Platteville prof. studying community digester

From an article by Jim Massey in The Country Today:

PLATTEVILLE - Tim Zauche believes a community manure digester could be a win-win situation for UW-Platteville and dairy farmers near the city.

The UW-Platteville chemistry and engineering-physics professor is studying the feasibility of building an anaerobic digester on campus or at the university's farm to convert manure into a variety of energy sources. Area farmers have expressed interest in the concept, he said.

"The reason I got into this is I want to help farmers become more profitable and help the environment," Zauche said. "If we're not going to help the farmers' bottom line, why even do it?"

Zauche met with about 25 Platteville-area dairy farmers earlier this year to discuss the project.

"They were like, 'Hey, milk prices are down, we're strapped for capital. We don't want to own (the digester), but we can see the benefits of using it,' " Zauche said.

Zauche said he's not sure who would own the digester. It could be set up as a farmer cooperative, owned and operated by the university, or leased to a private firm that would operate it.

He estimated it would cost $1.5 million to $2 million for a digester that would process manure from 1,200 cows. About a dozen farmers are seriously interested in the project, Zauche said.

One of those farmers is Steve Weigel, who operates a 100-cow dairy farm about a mile north of Platteville. He said he would like to discontinue hauling his manure daily and haul to a digester instead.

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