Proposed $4M biodigester to convert cow manure, restaurant grease to power for Lowell Light & Power

Developers of a proposed anaerobic digester that could supply Lowell Light & Power with 10 percent of its electric power requirement are well on their way to finalizing construction plans for the $4 million project. Sustainable Partners, LLC, (Spart) has partnered with Germany-based enCO2 to design and build the biodigester in a vacant factory building at 625 Chatham St., Lowell.

Plans are to process some 8,000 tons of cow manure per year from Swisslane Dairy Farm (Alto), over 400,000 gallons of used restaurant grease per year from Kerkstra Services (Hudsonville), and an undetermined amount of liquid waste from Litehouse Foods (Lowell). This will all then be converted into clean electricity, fed back into Lowell Light & Power's grid for the company's 2600 customers in Lowell, Lowell Township and Vergennes Township.

"There are 8,000 biodigesters in Germany and less than 200 in the U.S.," Northrup says. "That's why we have a German partner with [experience with] over 60 different projects. We're trying to do this to eventually build 500 projects for communities across the Midwest, so we're developing it as a template."

Northrup says the 25,000 square feet available in the former factory provides enough room to house nearly the entire biodigester, plus allows space for the trucks to offload manure and grease directly into the digester's holding tanks. He says the digester doesn't produce the foul odors of a farm's slurry pond. It also provides a means to divert hundreds of thousands of gallons of used restaurant grease from local landfills.

Rockford Construction will begin the construction process once the financing is completed. Northrup expects the biodigester to begin operations by December 2012 or January 2013.

Source: Greg Northrup, Sustainable Partners, LLC (Spart)
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor