About 200 people attended the meeting at the Kewaunee County Fairgrounds in Luxemburg,

Close to 200 people attended a Monday afternoon meeting in Luxemburg designed to give local officials and residents more background into a request for proposals that would convert manure into usable energy and improve overall water quality.

The meeting at the Kewaunee County Fairgrounds Exhibition in Luxemburg was hosted by the state Public Service Commission and the departments of Natural Resources (DNR) and Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP). A show of hands indicated about half the crowd were County Board and town board supervisors, mostly from Kewaunee County but also Brown, Door, Manitowoc and Calumet counties.

The state of Wisconsin on Jan. 3 released a 35-page request for proposals (RFP) from parties interested in moving ahead with a project. Kewaunee County officials had voiced frustration that the state was moving forward with the project with little or no local input, beginning with a November visit from Gov. Scott Walker to announce the proposal that was held on about two hours’ notice to the county.

Clint Fandrich of the state Office of Energy Information addresses the group.

The PSC has authorized Focus on Energy to spend “up to $20 million for Integrated Anaerobic Digester projects that meet Focus on Energy eligibility requirements,” the RFP indicates. It’s expected that the full cost of the project could be as much as 10 times that amount.

Proposals are due May 1, applicants are scheduled to make presentations May 10-11, and they would be notified of their award status by June 5 – although presenter Clint Fandrich of the PSC indicated it’s possible the May 1 deadline could be extended.

A successful proposal “must result in a reduction in demand of electricity and/or natural gas at a Focus on Energy-participating utility service territory,” said Clint Fandrich of state Office of Energy Information

Russ Rasmussen of the DNR said the proposals must also meet stringent water quality goals. He assured the crowd that any proposal accepted would be subject to the same permiting processes and public hearings as any other project.

“This RFP process doesn’t circumvent that at all,” Rasmussen said. “So there will be public notice and public hearings just like any other permits we issue.”

People will have opportunity to weigh in with questions and comments, he said, adding that the DNR has already issued some existing similar permits now, similar to wastewater treatment plant permits, including regional digesters in Dane County. He was especially impressed by a system installed by Digested Organics LLC at Majestic Meadows Dairy in Sheboygan Falls, which was designed to process 20,000 gallons of manure per day, harvesting energy through biogas generation, concentrating nutrients for more targeted crop use, and reclaiming clean water for farm use and surface water discharge.

“I want to just use that as an example of something that we think is an opportunity to take a look at managing manure in a different way than has been done since the Egyptians,” Rasmussen said. “They have the water clean enough that they can give it back to the cows for drinking.”

Sarah Walling, section chief for nutrient management and water quality for DATCP, said it’s entirely possible that the RFP could result in the submission of several smaller projects that share the $20 million state investment, not one large proposal.

“The potential rollout of this could look a lot different,” Walling said.

What was billed as a 45-minute presentation ran more than an hour, and questions from the audience were collected in written form.

Fandrich told the group that the information presented Monday and an abundance of other materials are posted at www.psc.wi.gov/biogas/rfp.htm