The President’s Pen is a weekly blog written by Jonathan Smith, New Vision’s President and CEO about local economic development projects and initiatives. It also covers economic trends, workforce issues, business climate policies, and manufacturing news.
Yakima County is Washington State's largest dairy production area. Over the past 20 years the County's dairy herd has almost tripled in size - from 34,000 cows to over 99,000 cows today. With that growth has come challenges. Local dairy farms have faced lawsuits from citizens and environmental groups over air quality and solid waste concerns. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has recently gotten involved and ordered several dairies to clean up.
The challenges are serious but a new player, Promus Energy, is bringing new technology to the dairy industry that can help it sustain operations. Promus Energy's President, Dan Evans, spoke at our New Vision Board meeting recently, and said his company wants to put Yakima County on the map as a national leader in in the sustainable conversion of “wastes” to renewable, revenue generating products that generate economic, environmental, and community benefits.
Promus is planning to help several local dairies build anerobic digesters that would convert their manure and wastes to green natural gas and other products. The company will start by converting the DeRuyter dairy's existing digester from electricity to natural gas production. With wholesale electricity prices today the DeRuyter's digester is a money loser. Converted to produce natural gas this digester becomes profitable. Once the DeRuyter dairy digester is changed over Promus hopes to build natural gas producing digesters for other local dairies.
Dairy digesters are not new, but designing them to produce green natural gas is. There is only one farm in the United States using this technology. Promus will be adding separators and strippers to each digester to pull phosporus and nitrate out of the waste stream. Evans explained that these nutrients can then be sold as fertilizer to farms. More importantly the dairies key sources of pollutants are contained and turned into marketable products (Promus will use equipment that pulls 90% of the phosphorus and similar levels of nitrate out of the waste stream).
The project got a boost recently when the County Commissioners agreed to help Promus build a natural gas pipeline that would help distribute gas produced from local digesters. The pipeline will run approximately four miles and is being designed to support at least six dairy digesters.
Promus would also like to use local digesters to support greenhouses. Evans said the carbon dioxide, fertilizers, soil amendments and reclaimed water are alll inputs that greenhouses need to thrive.
Promus hopes to have the first digesters connected to the pipeline next year. Longer term the company's will gauge its progress by
We are excited about Promus Energy's project and doing everything we can to make sure they are successful in the Yakima Valley. The company's goals are commendable and we hope their success helps sustain our farm based economy.