2012 was the Year Of The Cow for PSE's Green Power Program
Green Power by the Numbers
Snapshots from our Champion Green Power City
Getting Greener Has a Multiplier Effect this Year on Mercer Island
This year we celebrated our tenth anniversary and have enjoyed unprecedented exposure in the community. Here are some of the highlights:
Installed our first home solar project for winners Lon and Susan Swan of Bellingham
Honored Olympia's Batdorf and Bronson Coffee Roasters at Safeco Field
Toured Qualco Energy with Jodi Brothers from the Bob Rivers Show
Hosted a field trip for top customer service agents from PSE's Access Center
Awarded Best Marketing Campaign by a Green Power Supplier by REMA
2012 was the Year of the Cow for PSE's Green Power Program
This year the Green Power Program added two new biogas projects to the product portfolio: Rainer Biogas, a Farm Power project, and Edaleen Cowpower bringing the total number of dairy projects supported by Green Power to seven! With this expansion, we coined it the Year of the Cow and focused program communications to help our customers and program participants learn more about how dairy biogas makes green energy and helps local economies.
Turning Manure into Megawatts
A dairy cow produces 18 gallons of manure a day. That's a lot of fertilizer, but it's also an environmental issue. Manure can create water-polluting runoff, and it emits methane, a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming. Instead of letting that happen, a handful of Northwest alternative energy producers are addressing the problem using anaerobic manure digesters. Through the digester, methane gas is "harvested" from the manure and burned to create clean, green power. The liquids that remain are used to make an organic fertilizer free of pathogens and odor; the solids are decomposed in huge drums to create environmentally safe Grade A compost or bedding material. The process reduces greenhouse gas emissions by thousands of tons a year, helps farmers keep their dairies operating, and provides a source of energy that will not run out or pollute.
Production of Electric Power from Manure
Many of these companies got started with the help of a commitment from Puget Sound Energy to buy "cow power" on behalf of participants, like you, in our Green Power Program. Here are profiles of two of them:
In the language of the Salish people, Qualco means "where two rivers come together." At the point where the Skykomish and Snoqualmie rivers meet, three diverse groups of people came together in 2008 to form Qualco Energy.
Dairy farmers were seeking to protect their land from flooding; Northwest Chinook Recovery was working to improve salmon habitat; and the Tulalip tribes considered the river their life blood. Finding common ground in the river they shared, they formed a nonprofit partnership to operate an anaerobic digester.
The unusual alliance has benefitted both farming and salmon. "Anytime you get environmentalists, farmers and Indian tribes working on a project together, that's a win-win solution," says Mel Sheldon, chairman of the 3,500-member Tulalip tribes.
The gas produced by Qualco's 450 kilowatt generator comes from the manure of 1,300 cows, plus off-site waste, including food grease, whey, expired wine and beer, and fish waste. Producers of the off-site waste provide "tipping fees" to Qualco. Power sales to Puget Sound Energy, along with tipping fees, are expected to put Qualco on solid financial footing by the end of this year. Since Qualco is a nonprofit organization, it aims to invest the revenue it earns from power sales into renewable-energy projects, natural-habitat restoration and state-of-the-art farming practices.
The next phase for Qualco is to add a second generator that would be able to produce 1.2 megawatts of electricity. The company's ultimate goal is to help start a national movement to turn waste into a fuel source that could meet 15% of the US's energy needs. "You're taking all the waste and pollutants out of the environment," says Qualco president John Sayle, "then you're creating energy with it, and ending up with environmentally safe compost that you can use to fertilize your fields. That's one heck of a good thing to do."
Kevin Maas and his brother Daryl got into the biogas business because they saw family-owned dairies disappearing, squeezed by financial pressures and environmental regulations. The Maas brothers wanted to preserve a local industry they considered crucial to communities like the one where they were raised, in rural Skagit County, Washington. They began looking for a way to help make dairy farming profitable and sustainable.
In 2007, they launched Farm Power and set out to build a manure digester near their home town of Mount Vernon. Fundraising was a challenge, but it helped that the founders had local roots and an agreement to sell electricity to Puget Sound Energy's Green Power Program, which is supported by participating customers, like you, who want to support the development of renewable energy. "Farm Power and PSE are a great team," President Kevin Maas said when the agreement was signed, noting that Green Power's commitment brought the digester "One step closer to reality."
The digester opened 2½ years later, and began collecting manure from two nearby dairy farms that had been scraping waste from 1200 cows into uncovered lagoons. Burning the greenhouse gas that the lagoons formerly released into the air, Farm Power's 750 kilowatt generator produces electricity for PSE's Green Power Program. In addition to fuel, the company's digester produces pathogen-free liquid fertilizer that gets returned to partner-farmers, as well as solid material that the farmers use for cow bedding. The farms save $100,000 to $200,000 a year on bedding, which they now get for free from Farm Power in exchange for providing manure.
Farm Power's goal is to build manure digesters that will serve dairy farms throughout the Pacific Northwest, where most farms are too small to build their own digesters. The company works with groups of dairy farmers, designing and operating regional digesters to make them profitable. Farm Power currently operates digesters in Mount Vernon and Lynden, Washington, with a third digester set to begin operation in Enumclaw this Fall. The operations in Washington produce enough electricity for about 1,000 homes, and keep enough methane out of the atmosphere to equal the annual greenhouse-gas emissions of 3,000 cars.
Farm Power's founders like to say that their company operates at "the intersection of sustainable agriculture and renewable energy." Puget Sound Energy customers who would like to join them at the crossroads can support local farms by visiting the Green Power web page and enrolling in the Green Power Program.
Green Power by the Numbers as of September 30, 2012
Green Power Participation
Total kilowatt hours (kWh) of green power
purchased January to September 30, 2012:
269,821,218 – up 7 percent from the
same period in 2011.
|Olympia - 4191|
Bellingham - 4121
Bellevue - 2167
Kirkland - 1496
2011 Green Power Portfolio*
*For comparison, the current average mix of resources supplying Puget Sound Energy includes: Large Hydroelectric (50%), Coal (32%), Natural Gas (16%), Nuclear (1%), and other (1%) based on 2011 fuel mix reported to the State of Washington Office of Trade and Economic Development.
Snapshots from our Champion Green Power City
And the winner is ...
Olympia, with 4191 Green Power members to date.
With this issue we are honoring some of our Green Power business partners in Olympia. This is the first in a series of small-business profiles from our champion Green Power communities.
Batdorf And Bronson Coffee Roasters
Batdorf & Bronson has a simple formula for success: focus on excellence and sustainability. That applies to the company's business practices as well as its coffee. B & B offers certified organic and fair-trade coffee, and strives to lighten its environmental footprint through the purchase of 100% renewable energy and making their businesses as energy efficient as possible. "Green business practices are important to us personally," says Bob Benck, B & B's Green-Coffee Buyer, "and as a business they help set us apart from our competition. Of all that we do, buying Green Power is the easiest."
Signing up for Green Power was right in synch with Vivala owner Cheryl Selby's vision of a business that would make a positive contribution to the community. It also turned out to be a very affordable way to support sustainability and the development of local renewable-energy producers. "It was the perfect match of doing the right thing and managing my resources wisely," Selby says.
Owner Phil Rollins says that the Archibald Sisters' participation in Green Power is an attraction for customers. "It makes people feel good that the business is part of the Green Power Program," he says, "and makes customers feel like they are doing a green thing." It makes employees feel good as well. "It's important to me to work for a company that stands by its values," says Ashley DeLancy, a salesperson at Archibald Sisters since 2008. "I like knowing that my employer cares about our community and our future."
Joining PSE's Green Power program was an effective way for Intercity Transit to advance its mission to provide and promote transportation choices that support an accessible, sustainable, livable, healthy and prosperous community. "Using public transportation is one of the most effective things you can do to reduce your daily impact on the planet," says Intercity Transit General Manager, Mike Harbour. "By signing up for Green Power, Intercity Transit took green transportation a step further to benefit the environment we all share."
Getting greener has a multiplier effect this year on Mercer Island
The "Mercer Island Gets Green. . . One Hero at a Time" challenge is in full swing. In fact, Mercer Islanders have already met their original goal of reaching 650 total green power participants on the island by year-end – earning them $25,000 for a new solar array at their community center. Today, Islanders are setting their sights on a stretch goal to boost the grant to $30,000 total. All they need is another 100 homes or businesses to sign up.
A big part of the challenge's success is due to highly engaged community members on the planning committee. To take full advantage of the energy, the Green Power Program has added a twist: A pilot program benefiting local schools. Until the end of 2012 when new members enroll in the Green Power Program they can designate their favorite school on the island. In January, the PTSA with the most designations will get a $500 bonus to be used for the green initiative of their choice. This pilot program involving the schools is something we will make available to other school districts throughout our territory in 2013. In the meantime, keep up the good work Mercer Island!