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

County Moves Forward With Second Cow Power Facility, Selects Site Location, Partners

April 11, 2012
Casey Slaughter Becker, Office of the County Executive (608) 267-8823 or cell (608) 843-8858
County Executive

Innovative Manure Digester is Investment in Alternative Energy, Clean Lakes, Jobs


Dane County is moving forward with plans for a second cow power facility, selecting a site for the project, and entering into a new partnership for the project with major healthcare provider, Gundersen Health System, Dane County Executive Joe Parisi announced today.  Construction of the manure digester is anticipated to begin in late 2012.


Dane County and Gundersen Health System plan to join with three farm families in the Town of Springfield, just outside of the city of Middleton – the Ziegler Dairy Farm, Blue Star Dairy (Owned by the Meinholz Family), and the Hensen Brothers Farm.  US BioGas will also join the partnership as project developer. 


The digester will convert cow manure from farms into valuable energy, create jobs, and continue the county’s partnership with the county’s agriculture community to reduce phosphorus runoff to our waterways.  Phosphorus is the leading cause of green algae and other weed growth in Dane County’s lakes and comes from both urban and rural sources.


“These digesters represent the strong relationship we have with Dane County’s farm families to help keep our lakes clean and the shared value we place on making sure our agricultural industry thrives for generations to come,” said Parisi. “Each project is a testament to the entire county’s commitment to clean energy and green jobs, and using partnerships and innovation to accomplish our goals.”


More than a year ago Dane County was the first county in the state to construct a cow powered community manure digester, located near Waunakee.   Approximately 60 subcontractors and suppliers and 230 workers built the first cow power project in the Waunakee area, and a similar number of jobs are expected to be created for the second digester. 


Madison Gas and Electric will purchase the 11,000,000 kilowatt hours of electricity annually from the Springfield facility, enough to power approximately 1,600 homes.   The electricity will be added to the local electric grid to help serve all customers. 


The construction of a second digester realizes a goal in the County Executive’s previously announced five-year plan to help clean up county lakes – the Dane County Water Partnership – and builds on the county’s strong relationship with farm families to reduce phosphorus runoff in target areas throughout the Yahara Lakes Watershed.

“Through our Envision® environmental stewardship program, Gundersen Health System aims to be energy independent by 2014, reducing pollution, improving health, and allowing us to pass energy savings along to our patients in the form of lower healthcare costs. This project will account for 9% of our energy independence goal,” said Jeff Rich, executive director, GL Envision, LLC, a subsidiary of Gundersen Health System.


Gundersen is a participant in the Healthier Hospitals Initiative Challenge and aims to help other healthcare systems learn how they can implement successful sustainability programs in their own communities.


“Projects like this one get to the core of what our Envision program is all about. We are proud to partner with Dane County and the farm families on this important project,” added Rich.

The county’s digester facilities also help farmers with the costly storage and management of manure.  Dane County has 400 dairy farms, which equates to approximately 50,000 dairy cows. Dairy farming is a $700-million a year industry in the county that supports 4,000 jobs.


"Converting manure into electricity not only provides a 24/7 source of renewable energy, but also helps keep algae-causing phosphorus out of our lakes," said Greg Ziegler, a Town of Springfield dairy farmer participating in the project.


Agreements for the community manure digester project will move forward pending approval by the Dane County Board.  In addition to County Board approval, the project will also need approval from the Town of Springfield and air and water permits from the state Department of Natural Resources.

More information on the County Executive’s Dane County Water Partnership can be found at Additional information on Gundersen’s Envision program can be found at


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