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

Dane County Selects Firm to Study Building Food Waste Digester Facility

June 24, 2010
Joshua Wescott, Office of the County Executive (608) 267-8823 or cell (608) 669-5606
County Executive

Pending County Board Approval, AECOM to Investigate Turning Trash Into Cash

Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk today announced that the County has selected AECOM, a global engineering company, to examine the viability of turning thousands of tons of food waste each year into millions of dollars of green-generated electricity. 

Falk said the first phase of AECOM’s feasibility study will be completed this fall.  It will explore both the financial benefits to taxpayers and the renewable energy potential of food waste from commercial, industrial and institutional sources for a possible digester to be located at the County’s Rodefeld landfill.  This would be the first food digester in the state of Wisconsin and one of only a handful in the entire country.

“Food waste recycling is a new ‘green industry’ that offers tremendous financial and environmental benefits,” said Falk.  “Converting locally-produced food waste into everyday, necessary products such as energy and soil fertilizer is an innovative trash to cash solution with benefits for taxpayers.”

Foodwaste recycling is becoming a national trend especially being explored by those businesses that generate food waste. Walmart, the largest retailer in the world, announced it is planning to roll out a 50-state food waste recycling program for its stores sometime later this year.

The County’s landfill currently earns taxpayers $3-million a year by turning methane from naturally decomposing landfill trash into green electricity sold to Madison Gas & Electric Company.  The 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 the current landfill and produce greater amounts of green energy.

AECOM, a worldwide company with a local office in Madison that serves clients in more than 100 countries, was one of 13 consultants who competed for the contract worth a maximum of $300,000. AECOM was chosen after the13 proposals were evaluated and interviews conducted of the three finalists by a review panel comprised of Wisconsin Bioenergy Initiative Director Troy Runge, Dane County staff and County Board Supervisor Kyle Richmond. AECOM ‘s project team is comprised of additional consultants including R.W Beck, and technical staff from UW-Madison, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Marquette University.The study will be paid for by federal stimulus funding through an Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Dane County applied for and received.

In addition to exploring the potential of food waste, Dane County’s work continues on schedule with Clear Horizons, Inc. toward this year’s 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 will 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

Pending approval by the County Board and signature by the County Executive, AECOM’s work is anticipated to begin in July.


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