Three state agencies released their joint Request for Proposals “to business consortiums and farmers interested in utilizing anaerobic digester technology to build, operate, and maintain a system to treat manure from dairy farms,” the agencies said in a joint Jan. 3 press release.
In short, it is an unprecedented attempt by the state to kick-start a large-scale biodigester project to deal with some of the 650 million gallons of cow manure produced annually in Kewaunee County.
On Nov. 17, Gov. Scott Walker visited Kewaunee County to announce that he had charged the Public Service Commission (PSC), the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to draft a Request for Proposal for a biodigester project.
“Water quality is a top priority for us,” Walker said in the release on the RFP. “This joint effort is important progress, and we will continue working toward a sustainable solution to ensure our natural resources remain viable for generations to come.”
The RFP timeline includes a Feb. 1 seminar. Jan. 20 is the deadline to register for the seminar and submit questions for inclusion in the seminar. Proposals are then due by May 1. Applicants will be notified of the award on June 5. And a completion date for the approved project is “preferred” by Dec. 31, 2018.
In a column that featured the names of all three RFP agency heads, they said this about the project, “We envision a ‘hub and spoke’ model that could use pipelines, or trucks or tractors and manure tanks to transport manure from a number of farms to a central location that houses the digester. This system will allow dairy farms – big and small – the opportunity to participate in this venture. It can assist in manure management at smaller farms by providing an opportunity to cooperate with larger farms.”
It is, of course, the transport of manure that causes concern with the potential for spills. Project Phoenix, which came from an RFP by Kewaunee County last year, called for 66 miles of piping for the hub and spoke system. Hopefully, that will be considered in one of the categories under review by the committee that chooses the winning applicant, perhaps under “optimization of engineering design.”
“The proposals will be evaluated on the financial viability of treatment technologies including capital, long-term operation, and maintenance. We want to make sure that they are in it for the long haul,” said DATCP Secretary Ben Brancel. “A successful proposal will be evaluated on their ability to produce energy efficiently, remove nutrients from the manure and reduce pathogens.”
“Clean, safe drinking water is a priority for us at DNR and so is finding effective, science-based solutions to water quality challenges. A digester system that can also treat water and reduce pathogens is yet another tool that can be used to improve water quality in Kewaunee County and elsewhere,” said DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp. “While we and DATCP are already working on rule changes to address water quality in the state, we are thrilled the Governor asked us to join the PSC and DATCP in this effort to obtain a sustainable solution to this issue.”
“Pulling together creative solutions from the private sector industries involved in an integrated biodigester with a water treatment system will be crucial to the success of any potential proposals,” said PSC Chair Ellen Nowak. “We can add value to the renewable energy benefits of digesters by ensuring they are part of a holistic response that helps address groundwater, surface water, and drinking water issues. I thank Governor Walker for challenging his cabinet to collaborate in order to multipurpose our efforts and ensure versatility of state dollars.”
Up to $20 million could be awarded for this project from Focus on Energy for energy-related components of the project. The RFP also suggests that applicants seek grants related to water quality management and improvement, particularly within the Lake Michigan watershed, and lists several opportunities, including the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which they say are good for grants from $20,000 to $3,000,000; the Fund for Lake Michigan, with a range from $10,000 to $300,000; and the Great Lakes Protection Fund, ranging from $150,000 to $250,000.
Applicants are also told they can tap the technical assistance of the three state agencies on particular issues – the PSC on energy efficiency and renewable energy-related items, the DNR on nutrient management plan permitting and DATCP for nutrient management plans and crop and in-field conservation practices.
An Evaluation Committee will score the proposals on eight points, with a perfect score being 350. A minimum of 235 points must be met to be considered for the proposal.
“The treatment of the wastewater benefits us all when extremely clean water can be returned to the land or provided to dairy cows,” said Brancel. “This biodigester project is unlike anything done in the past in Wisconsin and aligns with Governor Walker’s goal of supporting the agriculture economy in the state while ensuring our natural resources are safe and healthy. It is my hope that farmers and businesses will seriously consider participating in this opportunity.”
You can find all the details, right down to the size and style of type (12-point Times New Roman, Garamond or Bookman Old Style) to use for your submission, at psc.wi.gov/biogas/documents/IntegratedADRFP.pdf.