Groundbreaking ceremony Dec. 12 for manure digester

The building of a manure digester, which turns cattle waste into electricity and other byproducts, has been talked about for at least a decade – always earmarked for the Enumclaw Plateau.

Now, it is turning to reality.

A formal groundbreaking ceremony is planned for Monday, Dec. 12, at the Ritter Dairy, just outside Enumclaw.

Referred to in press information as the “Enumclaw Dairy Manure Digestion and Energy Recovery Project,” the effort is aimed at reducing the burden of manure management for at least three family-owned dairies. At the same time, the plant is designed to produce renewable energy, reduce carbon emissions and protect water quality in the Green and White River watersheds.

The project will be owned and operated by Rainier Biogas, a partnership between Farm Power and the Ritter Dairy. Farm Power is a locally-owned company that has constructed, and is now operating, two dairy digesters north of Seattle; it also has one dairy digester under construction in Oregon. Other participants include neighboring dairy farms, King County, Puget Sound Energy, U.S. Department of Energy, Washington State Department of Commerce, USDA Rural Development, Native Energy, One Pacific Coast Bank and Washington State University.

The project is the culmination of King County’s decade-old vision to bring manure processing and energy production to the dairy farms of the Plateau. In 2007, after several years of consultation with dairy owners and other interested parties, King County’s Department of Natural Resources was awarded a $492,000, congressionally-directed grant for the installation of a manure digester/energy recovery facility. Shortly thereafter, the Department of Natural Resources conducted a solicitation process and selected Rainier Biogas as the project developer. The Department of Natural Resources subsequently secured a $160,000 federal Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant for the project.

Manure will be piped or trucked to the digester by at least three local dairies including the Ritter Dairy. The facility will be designed to manage manure from up to five dairies.

By separating digested fiber from the processed manure, the project will also create a local supply of cow bedding that will reduce the farms‚ dependence on increasingly scarce sawdust. Rainier Biogas will generate revenue to cover financing and operating costs through the sale of renewable electricity. Electricity production will be enhanced by importation of organic matter (food waste) to the digester. The environment will benefit from the production of renewable electric power and a reduction in greenhouse gasses. The project will also demonstrate a first-of-its-kind nutrient management system developed by Washington State University.

The estimated cost of the project is $4 million.


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