Where Does it Go? Creating Energy With Waste
What is a Biodigester?

Lourdes Academy Third Graders Tour the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh Biodigester

The Renew Our Schools energy challenge encourages students to get out of their comfort zone during the six weeks of the competition. The goal is to motivate schools to monitor and reduce their energy use while at school. Students are also encouraged to go on field trips and see the impact of sustainability in the real world.

Third graders at Lourdes Academy Elementary School had the opportunity to tour the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh Biogas Systems, which houses the biodigester, and earn points toward the Renew Our Schools Challenge. A biodigester is where organic waste, like food scraps and plant materials, is broken down by tiny microorganisms. These creatures eat up the waste and produce biogas, mostly made up of methane. And guess what? This biogas can be used as a source of energy, just like the gas we use in our stoves at home!

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Tour Time!

When students arrived at the biodigester plant, they were treated like food/yard waste and weighed on an outdoor truck scale totaling 5,540 pounds. Multiplying that number by eight will equal the average truckload of food/yard waste delivered here several times a day.

Mixing It All Up!

Next, the students walk into the mixing warehouse, where the trucks drop off their loads. Here, dry yard waste and even more wet food scraps are mixed. In addition, there are four huge doors housing the biodigesters. They are cleaned out and re-loaded, one at a time, monthly.

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Combustible Thoughts
Giant Gas Balloon?
Giant balloons collecting gas from the digester.

Following the mixing warehouse, they went upstairs to check out the giant balloon that houses collected gas from the digester. On the downstairs level, students looked closer at the combustion engine building, where the collected gas is combusted and electricity is produced.

Students enjoyed the tour and had endless questions following the big event:

  • "Where does the energy go?"
  • "What happens to bugs in the digester?"
  • "Is methane what is in cow farts?"
  • "What happens to the stuff you scrape from the digester?"
Learn More
Combustion engine building where electricity is produced from the collected gas.

Discover other ways schools are earning points in Renew Our Schools by following along on the FOCUS ON ENERGY® and KEEP Facebook pages:

If your school is interested in participating in a future challenge, visit the Renew our Schools page and fill out an interest form. Applications are being accepted for the Spring 2024 competition.

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