The state Public Service Commission team on Friday awarded a $15 million Focus on Energy grant to “Green Pastures Bio Energy Center” to build an integrated anaerobic digester in southeast Brown County.

The proposal from a group call BC Organics LLC was the only one of three proposals that scored high enough to be considered for the grant.

“BC Organics includes nine dairy operations and the project can expand to take on more farms in the future,” said PSC Chairwoman Ellen Nowak. “The central digester location would be sited at a landfill site northeast of Holland in southern Brown County. The anaerobic digesters will produce renewable natural gas from manure and food waste from the landfill, and we hope the gas will eventually be recoverable from the landfill as well.”

Gas produced by the facility will be injected into the Interstate Natural Gas Pipeline system, Nowak said. The consortium estimates it will be able to generate a net 5.7 million therms of renewable natural gas, equivalent to the heating needs of 7,600 Wisconsin homes, but it could also be used as transportation fuel as well, she said.

According to a memo provided to the commission, the project consists of 27 consortium members and includes the nine participating dairy operations, with a total of 22,882 animal units. BC Organics LLC would apply the $15 million grant toward a total project cost of $60.25 million.

The consortium consists of 24 members led by Wisconsin based Dynamic Concepts (Waukesha), along with WEC Energy Group (Milwaukee-based parent company of Wisconsin Public Service), US Biogas LLC (Plymouth), and BioStar Organics, among other Wisconsin based firms.

One of the rejected proposals would have been located in Kewaunee County. A consortium led by US Venture Inc. of Appleton applied for a project titled “Gemini Consortium.” The proposed project would have included 11 participating dairy operations, with approximately 30,000 animal units. The consortium requested funding of $27.26 million through the RFP to support a total project cost of $55.6 million.

The third submission, also rejected, was for a project in St. Croix County.

Nowak said U.S. Venture was reluctant to proceed without the full amount they asked for – $27.26 million – even knowing that the state’s request for proposals specified the available grant money was just $20 million.

“The evaluators pressed them repeatedly on that point, but US Venture was reluctant to consider reducing the request,” Nowak said.

The Kewaunee County group also asked for the money prior to completion, even though FOE policy is to release the funds upon completion, and they had a lengthy list of pre-conditions for the commitment of consortium capital, she said.

The project is being sought to address concerns about links between land-spreading waste and groundwater contamination.

“Land-spreading waste has been a practice in the past, but as we’ve learned in the northeast part of the state especially, it’s increasingly untenable and has been linked to some ground and drinking water contamination,” Nowak said. “According to the evaluation panel, this project will improve ground and surface water quality in Brown, Kewaunee, Calumet and Door counties, reducing the application of manure by some 189 million gallons a year, removing 577,800 pounds of phosphorus, and producing 162 million gallons of clean water annually.”

Note: This story was updated with additional reporting at 5:30 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 16.