Washington to provide loans for bioenergy financing

By Nicholas Zeman
Public and private sectors in Washington will now be working to realize four specific bioenergy projects in the state. In July, Gov. Chris Gregoire signed agreements to provide $6.4 million in low-interest loans meant to encourage conservation and business development.

The South Yakima Conservation District, which was awarded $2 million, is working with George DeRuyter and Sons Dairy to operate an anaerobic digester that will turn dairy waste into methane fuel for electrical generation. Kyle Juergens, project manager for Andgar Corp., the Ferndale, Wash., firm that supervised construction of the digester, said the DeRuyter farm was approved for the loan in 2006, and operation began in November of that year. The digester is selling electricity to Pacific Corp., a 1.6 million-customer utility company with headquarters in Salt Lake City and Portland, Ore., Juergens said. Andgar also built Washington's only other anaerobic digester at the Vander Haak Dairy in Lynden, Wash., as part of a design/build team with GHD Inc. in Chilton, Wis., which provided the processing equipment for both locations.

Dairy Farmers of Washington reports that there are 545 dairy farms and 241,000 cows in the state. Washington ranks 10th in total U.S. milk production, and the state's dairy industry contributes $3.5 billion to the local economy. "These loans provide new economic opportunities for Washington farmers, protect our environment, create jobs in smaller eastern Washington communities and reduce our dependence on imported oil," Gregoire said. Yakima County, Wash., where the DeRuyter farm is located, has 80 dairies and is ranked the 12th largest milk-producing county in the United States. Therefore, quite an opportunity exists for similar anaerobic digester projects in Washington, Jurgens said.

Three additional bioenergy loans were doled out by the state. The Port of Sunnyside received $750,000 to help Natural Selection Farms in Sunnyside, Wash., build a crush operation. The Odessa Public Development Authority was awarded a loan of $1 million to work with Inland Empire Oilseeds to build an oilseed crush/biodiesel refinery. The Spokane County Conservation district received $2.6 million to construct an oilseed crush/biodiesel refinery, which will be operated by Palouse-Bio LLC.