Baker Tilly, Wisconsin SEO create biogas planning tool

By Erin Voegele | October 09, 2012

Baker Tilly Virchow Krause LLP and the Wisconsin State Energy Office have partnered to develop an action plan to assist dairy farms and cheese manufacturers in converting waste into energy via anaerobic digestion facilities. The report, titled “Energy Applications from Agriculture and Cheese Manufacturing Feedstock,” provides a set of tools for identifying waste reduction energy applications within the state.

“Converting waste from these facilities for renewable energy applications may provide a meaningful tool as part of the state’s future energy mix in the areas of heat and power generation,” says Tom Unke, leader of Baker Tilly’s Energy and Utility Practice.

According to the report, there are already more than 100 anaerobic digestion systems operating in Wisconsin. The systems range in size from small on-farm digesters, to large municipal and industrial operations. “Despite the significant investment in these systems over the years, there is substantial room for growth based on current estimates of feedstock from these sources,” said the authors in the report.

The report also noted that Wisconsin is home to 236 cheese manufacturing facilities, representing nearly a quarter of the cheese facilities in operation in the U.S. According to the analysis, many of these cheese producers are working to expand, but that the ability to do so can be limited by the ability to manage additional co-products, which may be utilized as feedstock for digesters.

Relative to existing cheese production facilities, the report estimates that there is the potential to produce an additional 15-20 MW of power from biogas in Wisconsin. In addition, dairy farms could produce an additional 60 MW of power.

In the report, Baker Tilly noted that an online mapping tool has been developed in cooperation with the University of Wisconsin. The tool has created by compiling historical databases of pertinent information in a graphic form using the software program ArcGIS. The tool allows users to assess potential feedstock sources, utility infrastructure, service territories, nearby publically owned treatment works and waterways, highways and other criteria. “From there, potential feedstock source providers can be contacted, samples obtained, and a quantitative feedstock analysis can occur in conjunction with the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh at their new biogas testing facility, where feedstock testing equipment is being installed with funding provided under this grant,” said the authors in the report. “Through this initial feedstock assessment exercise, stakeholders can have an accurate basis for the evaluation of biogas energy potential, and the primary insights required for further exploration.”