Cow manure to provide electricity in Washington
Farm Power, a Skagit County renewable energy company,
and Puget Sound Energy, Washington’s oldest local utility,
announced the entry into service of the state’s newest
source of clean, sustainable power – an anaerobic dairy
digester that transforms cow manure into a source of
electricity and economic vitality for the region’s agricultural
community. The dairy digester is capable of producing
up to 750 kilowatts of electricity – or approximately
the energy needed to power 500 homes – and will provide
electricity to PSE’s Green Power Program.
Farm Power’s expected annual electricity output of approximately
6,000 megawatt-hours will go exclusively to PSE’s Green
Power Program, which allows the utility’s customers to
sign up to have some or all of the equivalent of the
energy needs be purchased on their behalf by the utility
from certified renewable energy producers. With more
than 24,000 participating PSE customers, the Green Power
Program is among the largest of the nation’s 600 similar
The program was recognized by the United States Department
of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency for its
role in spurring the development of new sources of energy
including biomass, such as the Farm Power digester, as
well as solar and wind projects around the Pacific Northwest.
The energy projects supported by the Green Power Program
are separate from – and in addition to – the renewable
energy projects of PSE, which is the Pacific Northwest’s
first and the nation’s second-largest utility owner and
operator of wind power according to the American Wind
The Farm Power site is located west of Interstate 5 and
just north of the Skagit River in Rexville. It will utilize
the manure of two neighboring dairy farms, along with
other agricultural waste products such as spoiled fruit
and cheese whey, as well as remnants from chicken processing.
In addition to producing electricity, the dairy digester’s
other environmental benefits include reduced odor, a
lowering of residual nitrogen in field-applied manure
and the production of fiber bedding for use on the farms.
The Maas brothers credit Senator Mary Margaret Haugen
(10th district – Skagit County) and Governor Chris Gregoire
for their support, including a $500,000 grant from the
Washington State Department of Commerce as well as the
passage of legislation that fostered their project and
other alternative energy programs in Washington.
Daryl Maas notes that the two neighboring farms providing
manure to the digester, Beaver Marsh Farms and Harmony
Dairy, are owned by the sons of families they have known
since grade school.
Like a number of other digester projects across the country,
Farm Power received a grant and loan package from the
USDA Rural Energy for America Program. A $500,000 grant
from the federal agency added to equity contributed by
local investors, while $2.1 million in USDA loan guarantees
covered long-term borrowing from ShoreBank Pacific.