I recently visited Qualco Energy’s biomass digester in Monroe as part of the 25x’25 national steering committee’s tour of Pacific Northwest renewable energy projects. 25x’25 is a rallying cry for renewable energy and a goal for America — to get 25 percent of our energy from renewable resources like wind, solar, and biofuels by the year 2025.
Qualco Energy is a perfect example of how agriculture is leading the way to our new clean energy economy. The biomass digester takes, as our tour guide Andy Werkhoven said, “All the gunky stuff of life and turns it into three products — energy, fertilizer and compost.” I had to ask what the gunky stuff was and found out it is everything from pulp waste and blood from slaughter plants to chicken daft, whey, and lots and lots of cow manure. Much of the manure comes from Andy’s cows.
Producing energy, fertilizer and compost is a win-win-win for the area’s farmers and the Tualip Tribes, the local economy and the environment. Area dairy farmers are facing slumping prices and high feed costs and being able to lower their costs is key to them staying in business. They use the compost for bedding and the fertilizer on their fields.
The economy gets a boost by diversifying its tax base, and hopefully in the future more clean energy jobs if Qualco Energy expands its operations. And the environment has considerably less methane — a powerful greenhouse gas — released into it. Puget Sound Energy is buying the electricity produced by the digester, enough electricity to power almost 280 homes annually.
All over the Pacific Northwest our agricultural community it doing its part to boost local economies, enhance our national security and improve our environment by reducing greenhouse gases.
And now we have to do our part by supporting a strong agricultural component to the Senate’s Clean Energy Jobs bill.