WSU Whatcom County Extension

Agriculture in Whatcom County

WSU Whatcom County Extension        

Anaerobic Digestion


Within the Pacific Northwest, there is much talk about producing green energy by digesting manure. Whatcom County is beginning to put that talk to action.

Agriculture is an important part of Whatcom County's economy, history, and culture. The county has about one third of Washington State's dairy cows, about 80,000 milk cows. This large animal industry produces large quantities of animal waste, with inherent environmental consequences. Rising energy prices are also hurting farmers. Thus, the dairy industry is under stress due to both economic and regulatory issues.

Storage and land applying animal manure contributes significant greenhouse gas (methane, carbon dioxide, oxides of nitrogen) to the environment. Converting animal manure to energy and useable byproducts can reduce greenhouse gasses, plus provide other beneficial effects.

Anaerobic digestion (AD) has the potential to reduce manure-handling problems while generating a compost like fiber for blending into a soil conditioner & methane gas for energy. Thus, AD can provide a second income for farmers.

There are potentially three new income streams for farmers. Methane gas can be converted to electricity, the fiber generated can be sold as a soil amendment or as animal bedding, and the AD process can provide greenhouse gas carbon credits for mitigation of new power plants.

Farmers who use AD for their dairy manure report fewer odor problems and complaints, and some say the solids produced are more saleable. With AD, you can remove a higher level of phosphorous from the solids, thus reducing the potential problems of water contamination of phosphorous overload.

Anaerobic Digesters are just one way of assisting in the country's need to find alternative energy choices that benefit the environment. This web site will point you to other AD trials, demonstrations and scientific literature



Improving the Carbon Footprint of Agriculture in the Pacific Northwest
This final report represents the culmination of research and assessment of the potential for improved management and technology development to reduce agricultural greenhouse gas emissions in the Pacific Northwest. The complete report is available on the website including an extensive section dedicated to Dairy Anaerobic Digestion.

Anaerobic Co-Digestion of Dairies in Washington State (pdf)
This factsheet briefly reviews the role of co-digestion within anaerobic digestion, explains the potential regulatory concerns, and details the solid waste handling permit exemption conditions. Washington State University, August 2011

High-Quality Fiber and Fertilizer as Co-Products from Anaerobic Digestion (pdf)
This article provides information on the use of digested dairy fiber as a horticultural media and how to recover a nutrient rich fertilizer from the digestion process. Soil and Water Conservation Society, 2008

The Use of Separated Digested Dairy Solids as a Soil Amendment (pdf)
This handout briefly describes the research conducted to evaluate the use of digested fiber as soil amendment comparable to peat moss in greenhouse container production. WSU Whatcom County Extension

Anaerobic Digestion in the Pacific Northwest (pdf)
This article focuses on two aspects of the research of particular interest to producers in the West: our financial assessment of a commercial scale digester and ongoing research to develop technologies to recover nutrients from AD effluent. Western Rural Development Center, June 2011

Biogas and Anaerobic Digestion
This website provides detailed information relevant to the establishment of an anaerobic digester. Penn State University

Small-Scale Biogas Technology
This website provides information on biogas technology for small-scale farms and how it can be used to manage organic wastes by providing a clean, renewable source of energy for on-farm applications.

Introduction to Biogas and Anaerobic Digestion
This website provides an introduction to what an anaerobic digester is, how it works, and how one is utilized on the farm.




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WSU Whatcom County Extension • 1000 N. Forest St., Bellingham, WA 98225 • (360) 778-5800 •