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

Dane County Seeks Company to Construct Cow-Power Project

April 06, 2009
Topf Wells, 266-9069 or Dave Merritt, 261-9792
County Executive

Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk’s drive to construct the Dane County Cow-Power Project – a renewable energy producing manure digester to help local farmers and to help clean area lakes, took another step forward today. The county issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) to design, construct and operate a multi-farm, community manure digester facility in Waunakee. In addition to the $1 million Falk put into the 2009 County budget to build the facility, Governor Doyle in March announced his support for two community manure digesters that will aid Dane County’s efforts to strengthen the dairy industry, clean up the lakes, create green jobs and increase production of renewable energy. The State Building Commission last week approved Governor Doyle’s request of $6.6 million in his capital budget to help fund the project. The county and state are also seeking federal stimulus funding in combination with private investment for the $18 million dollar project. “Our Cow Power Project means green energy, green jobs and blue lakes for our citizens to enjoy,” said Falk. “It also means a stronger, more sustainable $700 million dairy industry that accounts for 4,000 jobs in our county.” “Our 400 dairy farms and 50,000 dairy cows produce not only lots of milk, but over 2 billion pounds of manure each year that can harm our lakes and streams. But the use of a digester by local farms will remove 85% of the algae-producing phosphorus and produce “green electricity” with a value of nearly $1 million to power over 1000 homes in Dane County,” said Falk. For farmers, the digester substantially lessens the need to store manure in large, expensive facilities and to spread the manure, which requires a lot of land and may contribute to environmental problems, especially if spreading has to occur in the winter or spring. The RFP released today to construct the Cow-Power Project is the next step in the initiative that began in 2006 when winter liquid manure spills caused several fish kills and dumped phosphorus into Lake Mendota prompting Falk, County Board supervisors, farmers, utilities and environmentalists to create a manure management task force. The resulting feasibility study conducted by Strand Associates, Inc. recommended the current manure digester solution to farmer and water quality problems. Each digester creates about 25 good-paying construction jobs during its twelve to eighteen month construction period. Each requires at least two technicians to run 24/7. “Just think of the list of benefits -- phosphorous kept out of the lakes; better manure management for the farmers; significant additional farm revenue; locally produced, sustainable green energy; and local, good paying jobs for constructing and operating the digester. This is a harvest we should reap,” Falk said. Proposals are due April 30. Construction at the Waunakee site is estimated to begin later this fall. 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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