PSC Approves $15 Million for Brown County Digester

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HOLLAND — Southern Brown County is slated to be the host for an anaerobic digestion system for dairy manure after the Public Service Commission preliminarily approved $15 million for BC Organics, LLC—a 27-member consortium—to receive waste from nine farms which combine for nearly 23,000 animals in a $57.5 million project.

BC Organics was competing with two other consortiums for Focus on Energy funds, up to $20 million, set aside last winter when Governor Scott Walker directed the PSC, Department of Natural Resources (DNR), and Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) to court proposals for an integrated digester system.

US Venture, Inc. had applied for a project in Kewaunee County, whose groundwater contamination from raw manure spread on porous and shallow bedrock has garnered statewide attention. US Venture had requested $27 million in state aid for a $55 million facility, exceeding the maximum grant capacity laid out by PSC.

Lee Luft, a Kewaunee County Supervisor and outspoken advocate for manure control, has mixed emotions on the announcement.

“I think it is in many ways a step forward and an admission that we have more manure than we have land to spread it on,” Luft said in a phone interview.

Saying similar community digester projects have a, “checkered past” Luft said he is, “truly hopeful” the project will be a success but that he is, “Equally prepared to wait and see how it goes because similar projects have had serious downsides.”

All proposals were evaluated by members from PSC, DNR, DATCP, APTIM, and a faculty member from the University of Wisconsin with bio-digestion expertise. According to the evaluation report, projects were scored on a variety of fronts including cost-effectiveness, pathogen reduction, and project impact on small and large farms. BC Organics, with an average score of 291, was the only consortium to reach the minimum score of 235.

“BC Organics’ score reflects that it provided significantly greater information than the other applicants on numerous aspects of its application, which provided the Evaluation Team with greater confidence that the system would be well designed and positioned for operational success,” a memorandum for PSC said.

The project, named Green Pastures Bio Energy Center, is proposed to be built on a portion of 1,600 acres of land along Old 57 Rd. near County Aire Farms.

Green Pastures is estimated to produce enough energy for 7,600 homes and will employ 20 full-time workers. BC Organics expects construction to be complete and for gas production to start by late next year, though it anticipates expansion to reach peak potential by 2022. The gas it produces will be sent to state pipelines and will be available for home and transportation uses.

Green Pastures will need to meet local and state site plan and building requirements, but Holland Town Chairman Jerry Wall told The Denmark News that the Town has had limited direct contact with BC Organics and could not speculate on what processes would apply. The Town was made aware of the proposal approximately one month ago. Luft said the Kewaunee County Board of Supervisors was not included in the application process and that county officials were, “given no information other than what we read in the paper.”

Representatives from BC Organics are scheduled to be at the Town of Holland’s next monthly meeting on October 2 at 8 p.m.