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September 2006

 

King County wins grant to plan manure digester for power

Cow power on the Enumclaw Plateau is getting a boost thanks to a $93,900 federal grant for King County’s efforts to help family-run dairies, improve manure management and generate new energy sources. King County Executive Ron Sims said the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Business Enterprise Grant will be used to address the technical challenges of developing and building a system to collect and process the tens of thousands of gallons of manure that dairy cows produce each day on the Enumclaw Plateau.

The heart of any system is a manure “digester” that converts methane gas from cow manure into electricity. The digester also creates a marketable biosolid that is an excellent composting material. The remaining liquid that is separated from the gas and solids during processing will continue to be used as fertilizer for farmers’ crops but with significantly less odor.

Sims said the federal grant funding will be used to identify which system is most appropriate for the Enumclaw Plateau, to map out a system to aggregate the manure and to identify the best site for such a facility. The work is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

Dairy cow manure is currently stored in lagoons or large tanks on individual farms and later sprayed onto fields as a fertilizer. This practice can lead to complaints from neighbors about excessive odors. Runoff from sprayed fields can also deteriorate local ground water and create problems for fish.

King County has had a number of important partners during this initial stage of the manure digester project, including the dairy farmers of the Enumclaw Plateau, Energy Northwest and its team, Washington State University, Seattle City Light, the USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service in Renton, the King Conservation District, and the Department of Community Trade and Economic


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