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4:13 pm
Wed October 30, 2013

Tribe Builds Renewable Energy Plant

A new waste recycling plant built by the Forest County Potawatomi is up and running.  The Milwaukee facility turns organic material into electricity that’s sold to WE Energies. 

The new biodigester can process 130,000 gallons of liquid food waste each day.
The new biodigester can process 130,000 gallons of liquid food waste each day.
Credit Forest County Potawatomi

Project Manager Charlie Opferman says the $20-million facility converts food waste into methane gas using tanks full of bacteria.

“We keep these tanks full.  They’ve got bugs in them, and the bugs have food.  We keep them warm with heat that comes off the engines. Keep them basically at body temperature – as long as we can keep the bugs warm and happy they eat.”

Everything that goes into the facility must be in slurry form.  The facility can process up to 130-thousand gallons a day of that food slurry…that’s about 20 truckloads. 

The new facility is about 10,000 square feet.
The new facility is about 10,000 square feet.
Credit Forest County Potawatomi

  Opferman says food processors like canneries or dairies actually pay to get rid of byproducts like whey or vegetable scraps.

“What we have is an environmentally responsible disposal solution.  The plant takes stuff that basically other people are dumping.  And we’re able to make electricity out of it.”

As food breaks down it produces methane that gets converted to electricity…up to 48-thousand kilowatt hours per day.  Opferman says this project is part of the Forest County Potawatomi’s long history of environmental concern.

The tribe also operates a casino in Milwaukee.