We were pleased to hear about the Rainier Biogas Digester, in an article by Greg Martin as part of the US based, Harvest Clean Energy Report. So much so that we have a quotation from that article here. Our interest was mostly in the final paragrphs though, and the notion that the fibrous digestate would be used as a cow bedding. Seems like a great idea. One wonders whether as a product it will be possible for the farms that supply manure will also pay for this product. We suspect that might be quite difficult?
I grew up living about 3 miles from a rather large feedlot and on certain summer nights you really knew it. A lot has changed since then and according to Daryl Maas with Farm Power Northwest what used to be a problem for livestock producers can now be an asset. Construction is getting underway on a new bio-digester in northwest Washington that was in the works for quite a while.
MAAS: Originally the whole project was conceived as a feasibility study by King County a long time ago back, I believe, in 2002. And they spent several years studying whether or not a digester would make sense on the Green and White River watersheds where they’re at and after they had decided it made sense they went through a variety of designers, checked some technology, location and so that whole process took a good 6 years before Farm Power got involved.
King County approached Farm Power and asked for their assistance getting the project done. Infrastructure was a big part of the project.
MAAS: That was one of our largest difficulties really. We tend to try to pump 100% of our manure to the digesters. It’s just much easier, much more efficient to build a digester where everyone can move their manure via pipeline but one of the issues they’ve been having in Enumclaw is that there has been a lot of urban encroachment, a lot of people building 3 and 5 acre homesites, some small horse ranches out there so that the dairy farmers no longer operate in this wide open field environment.
Having to truck the manure would make this kind of project unlikely.
MAAS: But when you look at the pressures the farmers are facing for trying to dispose of their manure, not on 160 acre plots like we do in Skagit County but rather on 10, 15 and 20 acre plots, they really need some help processing that manure. And so we had to devise a system that would work in that environment with a lot of shorter pipelines and some trucking of manure and even some transferring of manure between farms from the farms that don’t have the space to put it to farms that do.
In addition to removing the manure Maas says there are some additional benefits.
MAAS: First of all we’ll be making a bedding product out of the manure when we’re done. When we process manure the fiber solids that are left over come out nearly sterile and they’re good for cow bedding so the farmers can use that as opposed to having to import wood shavings and other more costly products. Also just for the nutrient management we’re greatly improving their ability to handle their manure by giving them more options.
For additional information on clean energy, visit harvestcleanenergy.org. That’s today’s Line On Agriculture. I’m Greg Martin on the Ag Information Network