Northwest Renewable News

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Brothers Turn Cow Manure into New Source of Electricity October 5, 2009

Filed under: Biofuels,Methane Digesters,Washington — nwrenewablenews @ 1:08 pm
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Dairy cows make milk, and they make poop — 30 gallons a day. Now farmers can send the cow waste to machines that will convert it to electricity. Washington Governor Chris Gregoire will visit one of those electrical plants in Skagit County today (Monday).

Daryl Maas owns the plant with his brother Kevin.

Maas: “Doesn’t everyone always dream of working with manure their whole life?”

He says they got into renewable energy when they tried to build wind turbines on their grandfather’s farm. That didn’t work out. But they heard about machines called manure digesters. And they decided to get into it. He says the hardest part isn’t the smell. It’s convincing farmers that it’s a good idea.

Maas: “Farmers in Western Washington are just allergically scared of regulation, of environmental issues. And if they feel like getting involved in the project is gonna make their life more complicated and give them more scrutiny, that’s really tough for them.”

But Daryl and Kevin Maas convinced two farmers in Skagit County to pipe their manure to their new power plant. The digester extracts methane from the manure and burns it in a generator to make electricity. Daryl and his brother sell the electricity to Puget Sound Energy.

This is kind of gross, but what’s leftover are solids and liquids. Daryl and Kevin give them back to the farmers, because they can actually use them. Daryl says the solids are a good replacement for sawdust in cow bedding. That can save a farmer $10,000 to $15,000 a month. Farmers can use the liquid as fertilizer — and Daryl says it’s better than raw manure because it’s so thin it can run through a hose.

And to Daryl, the whole thing smells like money. He and his brother paid over $3 million to build the digester. But he says they’ll make the money back in six years. He plans to build three more in Western Washington.

Phyllis Fletcher, KUOW News


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