The UW Oshkosh biodigester, which is located at Rosendale Dairy, Wisconsin’s largest dairy farm, has been under construction since July and will begin producing energy before the end of 2013. The facility will serve as both a renewable wasste-to-energy plant and a learning and research lab that will prepare new waves of environmental and renewable energy scientists for the workforce while sustaining Wisconsin’s dairy farming legacy.
The $7 million biogas production facility and living, learning, renewable-energy laboratory–funded by the UW Oshkosh Foundation and in partnership with Milk Source, Soil Net, Alliant Energy, Infinity Lawn and Garden, BIOFerm Energy Systems and its parent company the Viessmann Group—will generate 1.4 megawatts of electricity by using Rosendale Dairy’s livestock waste to generate, capture and combust methane.
The formal ribbon cutting event will be held at 2 p.m. on Dec. 11 at Rosendale Dairy in Pickett. The event is open to the public. University and Foundation officials along with the project partners will speak about the innovative partnership and facility.
The large-scale wet fermentation facility will produce seven times more energy than the existing UW Oshkosh dry fermentation anaerobic biodigester, which was the first of its kind in North America and went online in 2011.
The Rosendale biodigester will process approximately 240 tons per day of separated solids—23 percent total solids will be combined with up to 58,000 gallons per day of liquid manure produced by the dairy’s 8,500 cows. The mixture is referred to as the “substrate” for the system. Two cylindrical anaerobic digestion reactors built by Viessmann Group each have a 1-million-gallon capacity. Methane generated by the digestion process will be combusted in engines on the site. The digester units will produce up to 1.4 megawatts of electricity, which is enough electricity to power the equivalent of approximately 1,200 homes, according to BIOFerm.
The latest UW Oshkosh biodigester is estimated to have enough “green power” production to dramatically reduce UW Oshkosh’s 2025 carbon neutrality goal by several years. Sale of the energy back to power utilities will help generate carbon credits for the institution, already rated among the greenest in the nation by the Sierra Magazine (the Sierra Club) and The Princeton Review.
UW Oshkosh Foundation President Arthur Rathjen said this latest biodigester project—a third for UW Oshkosh—will be good for the University, community, region and state.
“This is a multifaceted win for our students and the state of Wisconsin, and it is the kind of innovative, entrepreneurial project the UW Oshkosh Foundation believes is essential to the future of our thriving institution and our students,” Rathjen said. “We’re addressing a real need for real people. I’m tremendously proud of this innovative and continuous effort and partnership.”
The Rosendale Dairy project adds to a growing list of collaborations between the University and Viessmann Group.
Besides the near-campus biodigester, in March 2012, the Wisconsin Department of Administration (DOA), through the Department of Administration and State Energy Program, supported a feasibility study to install anaerobic digestion units on family farms with fewer than 500 head of dairy cattle. The “EUCOlino” (OY-co-lino) project conducted by BIOFerm and UW Oshkosh through the UW Oshkosh Foundation, involves the first small-scale biodigester unit in Wisconsin. The feasibility study and test project is located on the Allen Farm, about six miles northwest of Oshkosh. The specific project and technology, referred to as the “Titan 55,” involves a small-scale, wet biodigester with a 55 kW engine. It is innovative, scaled energy technology once again championed by Viessmann and BIOFerm.