Seal of Dane County County of Dane
County Executive's Office

Dane County to Study Constructing Energy and Jobs-Producing Food Waste Facility

December 21, 2009
Joshua Wescott, Office of the County Executive (608) 267-8823 or cell (608) 669-5606
County Executive

New Plant Could Turn Food Now Thrown Away Into $4-million of Renewable Energy Per Year

Waste food that now goes into the garbage or down kitchen disposals could one day generate up to $4-million in locally-produced green energy under a project spearheaded by Dane County, County Executive Kathleen Falk announced today.  The county will launch a feasibility study in early 2010 to explore both the financial benefits to taxpayers and green jobs and renewable energy potential of building a food waste digester plant.

“We’re currently earning $3-million a year for taxpayers by turning methane from trash at our county landfill into green electricity,” County Executive Kathleen Falk said.  “Now we want to further tap into the great financial and energy potential of all the food that gets thrown away from businesses, schools, hospitals, and homes.”

Construction and operation of a new Dane County food waste digester would create an estimated 45 jobs.  The facility, a first for the state, would convert old food into biogas that could either be combusted in generators and turned into electricity or converted into natural gas.  It’s estimated this innovative project could generate $4-million worth of renewable energy a year.  Byproducts of the process could be packaged as compost for gardens.

Today, Dane County started the process of receiving proposals from firms interested in conducting the feasibility study and developing an initial site design by issuing a Request for Proposals (RFP) due January 21.  The proposals will be reviewed in early 2010 and a company selected to perform the study.  The feasibility study will be completed by September 1, 2010. The work will be paid for with funds from the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Dane County received under the federal stimulus legislation.

The county’s landfill receives approximately 200,000 tons of material every year of which 30,000 tons is food waste.  Diverting food waste to a digester will significantly extend the life of our current landfill and produce greater amounts of green energy.

In addition to exploring the potential of food waste, Dane County’s work continues on schedule with Clear Horizons and their strategic partner SCC Americas toward construction of a privately-owned and operated “community” manure digester to be shared among several farms in the Waunakee area.  This first-of-its-kind effort would generate electricity for 2,500 homes, around $2-million a year in green energy, and remove the bulk of the lake algae-growing phosphorus found in manure.

As part of the food waste feasibility study, Dane County will be working closely with the City of Madison as part of their current effort to evaluate how much food waste is generated within the city and the costs associated with collecting the food waste separate from other sources of waste.  Additionally, the county will work with other Dane County communities to assess the feasibility of collecting their food waste for the digester.

Proposals are due January 21, 2010.  A full copy of the RFP can be downloaded from the county’s website at A hard copy can be obtained by contacting the Department of Public Works, Highways and Transportation at 608-266-4018.

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