Farm Power investing millions in Northwest dairy towns
By Lee van der Voo
Sustainable Business Oregon contributing writer
Farm Power is building energy-producing digesters in dairy towns at about $4 million each.
A new energy company is making substantial investments in Northwest dairy towns, hoping partnerships with farmers in Oregon and Washington will pay big dividends from energy produced in anaerobic digesters fueled by cow manure.
Skagit County, Wash.-based Farm Power Northwest LLC is headed by brothers Kevin and Daryl Maas. The duo are partnering with dairy farmers in Washington, and most recently in Tillamook to build anaerobic digesters that harvest methane collected from manure. The company burns methane to produce electricity for sale. Its model is attracting investors who are interested in seeing long-term returns from the 30-year projects.
So far Farm Power has is operating two digesters in Washington near Lynden and Rexville. The company is also building a third digester called Rainer Biogas near Enumclaw, Wash., and is moving into Oregon with two projects set to begin operations in 2012 in the Tillamook area. Farm Power Tillamook is scheduled to come online this month. Farm Power Misty Meadow is under construction and is expected to begin operations in the fall.
Seizing on the enormous amount of manure available in dairy communities, Kevin Maas, who grew up in an agricultural community, said he came to the business spying opportunity, but also looking to make a difference in dairy towns for both struggling farmers and communities.
“The dairy industry, especially on the west side has been fighting hard just to keep their heads above water. Someone has to do something, so this is what we came up with,” he said. “I was looking for a way that energy could bring new value to farms, not just repackage the old values.” What he and his brother found, Maas said, was an unmet need. “You could almost call it a market failure. There was a resource but farmers weren’t putting in digesters … because they already had enough work to do.”
Lee van der Voo, lvdvoo*at*gmail.com, is a freelance writer for Sustainable Business Oregon.
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