Wisconsin Tech Turns Cow Manure Into Clean Energy and Clean Water

Here’s a story that might be a little hard for some people to swallow. But it’s all mind over matter, as the old adage says.

Yesterday the Dane County executive joined representatives from three Wisconsin farms and Wisconsin-based companies GL Dairy Biogas and Aqua Innovations for the unveiling of cutting-edge technology in Springfield, Wisconsin, that turns manure into clean energy … and clean, drinkable water. Yeah, the concept initially made me grimace, but the science is solid and the only barrier to drinking that water is a mental one. A number of clean energy and environmentally friendly ideas are at work on the project. It allows farmers to more efficiently recycle nutrients generated on their farm and reduce nutrient runoff into nearby waterways while generating renewable energy. The innovation is believed to be the first of its kind in the country.

  • The $1.6 million community nutrient concentration system (NCS) will receive processed manure that has gone through GL Dairy Biogas’ dairy digesters. It will generate renewable natural gas while managing methane, a greenhouse gas.
  • Aqua Innovations’ NCS puts the dairy manure — which is largely comprised of water — through ultrafiltration and reverse osmosis filters and removes nutrients including phosphorus. The water will be cleaned to a degree where it is drinkable and will be discharged into a local creek. The nutrients will be concentrated and stored for later use as crop fertilizers.
  • Concentrating the nutrients reduces the amount of crop fertilizers that farmers need, and the manure volume reduction decreases transportation costs and emissions.
  • Phosphorus is good for crop production but bad for waterways because it promotes the growth of algae that is harmful to humans and other animals. One pound of phosphorus can lead to 500 pounds of hazardous algae. Blue-green algae is an increasing problem in Midwest waterways during summer months and demand is high for innovations that mitigate the problem. This new NCS technology achieves nearly 100% phosphorus removal.


  • Des Plaines, Illinois-based Gas Technology Institute (GTI) and Purdue University are two of the partners spearheading the Hydrogen Education for a Decarbonized Global Economy (H2EDGE) workforce development initiative. The U.S. Department of Energy awarded H2EDGE $2 million to develop and grow the hydrogen workforce and advance hydrogen technologies and end-use applications.
  • The DOE also awarded Columbus, Indiana-based Cummins $1 million to develop a hydrogen fuel cell-powered truck to be used for disaster relief. The truck would travel to military and citizen disaster relief sites to provide power, heat, and water.

💰 FUNDING: Projects in Indiana, North Dakota, and Ohio are among the 12 to receive a collective $34 million in Department of Energy funding for the development of small-scale solid oxide fuel cells. These technologies have applications for power generation, hydrogen production, and syngas use.

🔌 EFFICIENCY: St. Louis-based digital consultancy Perficient and Detroit-based DTE Energy launched an interactive customer web portal to provide information about and incentivize energy efficiency program participation.

🔬 INNOVATION: A pair of reports outline a road map for accelerating clean energy innovation in the United States. The takeaway from Vox’s David Roberts: the country’s system for supporting energy innovation “needs to be bigger, better targeted, broader, more stable, and more equitable.”


  • A process developed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory to convert ethanol to jet fuel has been licensed by Prometheus Fuels. The process is more cost effective and less energy intensive than competitors’.
A catalyst material used to covert ethanol into butene-rich mixed olefins, which can then be readily processed into aviation fuels. Credit: Carlos Jones/ORNL, U.S. Dept. of Energy.
  • The National Renewable Energy Laboratory expanded the open-source resources available through the STEM Hydropower Portal and the STEM Marine Renewable Energy Portal to help users understand water power technologies and their potential.
  • University of Texas at Dallas researchers are investigating the use of peptides for making nanotubes for energy harvesting. Nanogenerators that convert mechanical energy to electricity are typically are comprised of metal oxides and lead-based perovskites, but scientists are seeking organic, less toxic materials. Peptide-based materials are desirable because they are flexible and create an electric charge when pressed or bent.
  • The University of Tennessee is developing a technology to recycle wind turbine blades into new composite materials, according to Daily Energy Insider. It would recover glass fibers for other uses including renewable energy system components.


  • The Battery Show North America will meet in person in Novi, Michigan next year, but this year it will be virtual from November 10-12.
  • As part of the Chicago exhibition Third Coast Disrupted: Artists + Scientists on Climate, a web discussion will be held on October 22 about carbon dioxide’s role in climate change and transportation-related ways to cut carbon emissions, such as new research into a greater shift toward electric vehicles in Chicago.