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A $3.9 million anaerobic digester on the north end of Bob Hall Road will start turning cow manure into electricity in November.
Known as Farm Power Lynden, the project will be the second anaerobic digester in Whatcom County.
The digester, located west of Lynden, will take manure from more than 2,000 dairy cows in Whatcom County, trap methane gas from 1.5 million gallons of manure decomposing in a tank, and burn the gas to generate enough electricity to power 500 homes.
Puget Sound Energy will buy the electricity.
The company behind the project is Mount Vernon-based Farm Power Northwest, which already has a commercial digester near Rexville in Skagit County. That digester began generating electricity Aug. 30, 2009.
Whatcom County's first digester - the first in Washington state - opened at Darryl Vander Haak's dairy farm near Lynden in 2004.
The new Farm Power project was made possible by more than $3.9 million in federal money - through a combination of grants and loans.
A $1.06 million chunk came from a grant made up of federal stimulus dollars funneled through the Washington state Department of Commerce.
It was part of more than $20 million in grants and loans for clean technology, renewable energy and energy efficiency programs throughout the state.
Farm Power combined those dollars with money it was getting from the U.S. Department of Agriculture - $500,000 in grants and $2.4 million in a loan guarantee. The actual loan came from ShoreBank Pacific, which described itself as the first commercial bank in the U.S. to commit to environmentally sustainable community development.
The project has another benefit in that hot water, a byproduct of burning the methane in an engine to generate electricity, will be used in a nearby greenhouse owned by Van Wingerden Inc.
Van Wingerden owns the land on which the digester sits, said Kevin Maas, who founded Farm Power Northwest with his brother, Daryl.
The water will warm the greenhouse via radiant heat.
"The greenhouse will be saving thousands of dollars a month in heating costs," Maas said. "We'll be providing about half of the heating needs.
"Many greenhouses use hot water for radiant heating, but I'm not aware of any commercial greenhouses that get their hot water as a byproduct from a green electricity-generating facility like ours," he added.
Ferndale-based Andgar Corp. built the digester.
Maas said he hoped to start filling the reinforced concrete tank with manure this week.
HOW IT WORKS
Here are the basics of how an anaerobic digester turns cow manure into renewable energy and other byproducts:
Manure is pumped into a 1.5-million-gallon concrete tank, where bacteria break down some of the slurry in the absence of oxygen.
The methane gas produced as the manure decomposes is captured by the tank's concrete roof, then burned in a modified diesel engine to turn a generator to create electricity.
The process also produces a nutrient-rich liquid, free of pathogens and odor, that can be spread on farm fields and a fiber that can be sold to nurseries as compost and plant bedding.
Source: Farm Power Northwest; Bellingham Herald files.
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