Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
News >  Pacific NW

Digester turns waste into energy

Associated Press

RUPERT, Idaho — An anaerobic digester used to turn dairy waste into power is up and running at Whitesides Dairy.

Two 35,000-gallon tanks have been turning manure into methane for about three weeks, said Steve Whitesides, co-owner of the dairy.

“It’s quite amazing really,” he said.

The digester was the flagship project of Intrepid Technology and Resources Inc., which broke ground on the project last spring.

A window at the top of one tank shows the process inside. The waste inside looks like frothy root beer, said Brad Frazee, Intrepid’s project manager, and doesn’t produce the odor problems normally associated with dairies.

“You’re up there with thousands of gallons of waste and you don’t smell a thing,” he said.

The digester runs on manure from the dairy’s 4,000 cattle. The end product, methane, can be used as natural gas or propane. Whitesides plans to use some of the fuel to heat his barns, and Intrepid hopes to sell the rest to a pipeline carrier. Eventually, Intrepid plans to power an alternative fuel vehicle with the gas.

Whitesides said he’s getting more out of the project than warm barns. Nearly half the waste at his dairy can be used in the process.

“It’s a win-win situation,” Whitesides said. “It’s good for the dairy; it’s good for the environment.”

The digester uses water already used once on the dairy, which can even be used again for irrigation after it’s run through the digester.

The venture received no government grants and was funded completely through private means, Whitesides said.

Frazee said the project may interest others in reducing waste and creating energy — despite high startup costs.

“There’s nothing like stepping up and being the first person to do something,” Frazee said.

Frazee said he has gotten numerous phone calls and e-mails from people in and out of state. Several local dairymen also have visited the Whitesides operation.

“We’ve had a lot of interest in what we’re doing,” Whitesides said.

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

Local journalism is essential.

Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.

Active Person

Subscribe now to get breaking news alerts in your email inbox

Get breaking news delivered to your inbox as it happens.