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The University of Wisconsin Oshkosh recently received the 2011 Silver Waste-to-Energy Excellence Award from the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) for its innovative and successful efforts in solid waste management.

The award recognizes the University’s first-in-the-nation, commercial-scale dry fermentation anaerobic biodigester.

Load-in of the digester recently began, and energy production is expected to begin soon. The renewable energy facility includes heat and power generators, which initially will produce up to 5 percent of the campus’ electricity and heat.

The majority of the 8,000 tons of organic biowaste used in the biodigester will be provided by campus and community sources. At Blackhawk Commons, food scraps will be collected in separate dumpsters to help fuel the biodigester. At Reeve Union, food waste will initially be gathered in the kitchen and will eventually be collected from dining areas, said Marty Strand, assistant director for dining operations at UW Oshkosh.

“This is a true sustainability award for the campus, as the SWANA competition covers the technology, economics, community relations, worker safety, environmental advantages and aesthetics of the plant,” said Mike Lizotte, sustainability director at UW Oshkosh. “They looked at how UW Oshkosh balances financial, environmental and social concerns as we find new ways to create renewable energy and handle waste.”

Each year, SWANA’s Excellence Awards Program recognizes outstanding solid waste programs and facilities that advance the practice of environmentally and economically sound solid waste management. Programs also must demonstrate that they are fiscally and environmentally responsible through their compliance with all applicable federal, state and local regulations.

The award was accepted by UW Oshkosh representatives recently at a solid waste conference.

The dry fermentation anaerobic biodigester is the first digester for UW Oshkosh. Plans for a wet anaerobic biodigester/biogas production facility partnership at Rosendale Dairy, the state’s largest dairy farm in Pickett, were recently announced. With appropriate contracts, permits and financing arrangements in place, ground is projected to be broken on the facility in spring 2012, with a projected biodigester startup in 2013.

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