Meeting the dual goal of environmental stewardship and sustainability, the Forest County Potawatomi Community has opened its newly constructed $20 million Renewable Energy Facility, which will convert area food waste into enough electricity to power 1,500 homes.
It was the fruition of a project first proposed two years ago, and ground was broken in July 2012.
“Our tribe’s culture and traditions establish a duty to help protect and enhance environmental resources,” said Potawatomi Chairman Gus Frank in a statement from the tribe. “This project not only helps us meet our energy and sustainability goals, but is also important to the region as it removes a waste stream while providing clean and renewable power.”
With funds from the U.S. Department of Energy and Focus on Energy, and by partnering with several Wisconsin-based companies, the Potawatomi have constructed a plant that changes the liquid organic waste known as feedstock into biogas. It does so by breaking down the feedstock into microorganisms in a digester tank, using a proprietary anaerobic digestion process. With two 1.3-million-gallon digester tanks, the plant will produce 2.0 megawatts (MW) of “clean, green and renewable electricity,” the tribe said—enough energy to power about 1,500 homes.
The breakdown process creates methane, which is then burned in an engine that produces renewable electricity, the Potawatomi said. That power will be sold to We Energies. Also part of the new facility is a plant that can recover heat from the biogas production process to supply hot water and heat, the tribe said.
The project, known as the FCPC Renewable Generation Digester, brought in companies from all over the state. Miron Construction Co. oversaw the project management and general contracting services; Symbiont Inc. did most of the engineering of the plant; Titus Energy undertook “significant pre-development work and other consulting services”; Greenfire Management Services LLC, a subsidiary of the Potawatomi Business Development Corporation, also provided consulting services; Rockwell Automation installed motor controls, and the two internal combustion biogas engines were manufactured by General Electric in its Waukesha plant—the first U.S. deployment of this engine model for use in continuous generation,” the tribe said in its statement.
The plant is just part of a $200 million initiative that the Potawatomi Tribe is undertaking in Milwaukee, including a $36 million data center in the city’s historic Concordia neighborhood and a $150 million, 381-room hotel being built next to the Potawatomi Bingo Casino, scheduled to open in summer 2014.
The plant's October 28 ribbon-cutting was attended by not only Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett but also Wisconsin Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch, the tribe said. In all, 100 attended the opening ceremonies.
“The FCPC Renewable Generation Digester helps Wisconsin food and beverage manufacturers dispose of feedstock in an environmentally friendly manner that enhances and achieves their sustainability goals,” said tribal attorney general Jeff Crawford, who is also the project leader. “The facility will allow all involved to be both environmentally and fiscally responsible, which makes our community a better place to live and work.”