Seal of Dane County County of Dane
County Executive's Office

Dane County Announces Second “Cow-Power” Project

November 22, 2010
Joshua Wescott, Office of the County Executive (608) 267-8823 or cell (608) 669-5606
County Executive

Town of Springfield Farms Working to Share New Manure Digester, Generate $2-Million in Electricity Each Year


Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk announced today the county is working with several farmers northwest of Middleton on construction of a second “Cow Power” facility that will convert manure into electricity and stop the runoff of pollutants into local lakes.


Four dairy farm families in the Town of Springfield intend to partner with the county and Clear Horizons to develop the new facility.  When complete, it’s expected to generate about $2-million worth of electricity each year - - enough to power roughly 2,500 Dane County homes.


“Thanks to another great group of farmers, Dane County will have a second ‘Cow Power’ facility to generate home-grown energy and keep pollutants like phosphorus from flowing into the Yahara Lakes,” Falk said.  “Dane County has a $700-million dairy industry that employs 4,000 people.  Helping farmers safely dispose of their manure makes it easier for them to grow their herds and preserve the future of farming in our county.  Phosphorus is the biggest source of pollution in our lakes and this is another big step in cleaning up our lakes.”


Construction of Dane County’s first “Cow Power” facility began in the Town of Vienna (north of Waunakee) in August and is progressing on schedule.  It’s the first manure digester in the state and one of only a handful in the entire country to be shared by several farmers (a “community” digester) and to substantially remove phosphorus from manure.  Completion of the first manure digester project is expected by the end of this year and because it is so unique, this facility will serve as a model for similar future digesters on farms across the Upper Midwest and rest of the country.


This second manure digester will have the same phosphorus removal technology and also be built and operated by Clear Horizons LLC.  Clear Horizons, Dane County and the four Town of Springfield farms are working together to develop a proposed design and schedule for project construction, and identify the best site and layout for the project.


“Our community digester will not only help ensure the future of family dairy farms, but also help keep phosphorous out of our lakes," said Art Meinholz, a Town of Springfield dairy farmer participating in the project. 


$3.3 million in state funding for this second “Cow Power” facility was approved by the State Building Commission last week (Wednesday, November 17th).  Governor Doyle included the dollars in his 2009-2011 state budget so the new digester has technology to take out the bulk of the algae-growing phosphorus that’s found in cow manure.  The remainder of the funding for the project is being paid for by private investors.


Falk noted there are 400 dairy farms in Dane County that milk 50,000 dairy cows.   Those farms produce a lot of milk but also over two billion pounds of manure each year that can harm area lakes and streams. 


Development of these first-of-their-kind manure digesters to reduce lake pollution and create home-grown energy for Dane County homes was one of the primary initiatives the County Executive ran for re-re-election to accomplish.  The first digester is expected to begin operations within the next few weeks.