The idea of growing, generating and/or recovering our fuel from a renewable source, rather than extracting it from the ground, is a great concept for America. The use of biofuels enables our country to reduce its dependence on foreign fuel sources and instead rely on a variety of readily available sources—corn, grasses and even waste products.
While natural gas remains the most common fuel in the ethanol industry, anaerobic digestion is once again becoming popular as a natural gas alternative. Anaerobic digesters use biological processes to breakdown organic waste (food waste, animal waste or crop residuals). As these substances break down, biogas is produced and captured in the anaerobic digesters and scrubbed, compressed and dried. The biogas is then used in place of natural gas (which is comprised mostly of methane) to power engine generators that produce electricity to power the facility.
This process can also add operation value, like in the case of the Potawatomi Bingo and Casino in Milwaukee’s Menomonee Valley. Miron is currently constructing an $18.5-million liquid food waste digester that will not only displace the need for area food producers to land apply their waste products, but will also produce renewable energy. This electrical energy will displace a portion of the current electricity needed for the facility’s day-to-day operations. The Potawatomi project will produce enough electricity to power approximately 1,500 homes per year and the energy produced on site will be sold back to Wisconsin Energy Corp.
In addition to converting food waste to energy, Miron is also involved in a project to help address challenges posed by the disposal of waste water produced by Wisconsin’s cheese factories.
The solution to that challenge comes from three years of tireless legwork and a new Wisconsin company, GreenWhey Energy. This new firm chose to partner with Miron to construct a first-of-its-kind facility in Wisconsin, focused on taking the byproducts of the cheese production process and converting them to biogas, clean water, heat and a nutrient-rich byproduct that will be used as soil enhancer. Working with leading engineering and design firms, the founders researched, planned and have begun construction of this food waste-to-energy facility in Turtle Lake, WI. The biogas facility will generate enough energy to power more than 3,000 homes with renewable electricity. The heat produced by the process will also help to operate an adjacent industrial-sized cheese plant.
David G. Voss, Jr., president and CEO of Miron, explained his enthusiasm for the project, “We’re proud of this project, because it reflects who we are as citizens of Wisconsin who care about our dairy industry and our environment. We know that by solving a problem for this industry, we will create new opportunities for everyone else: for consumers, for our energy future and for the homes powered by this new energy source in Turtle Lake.”