Greenwood, Wis. – A project that is effectively and efficiently using what was once considered a waste product earned Grassland Dairy an Energy Efficiency Excellence Award from FOCUS ON ENERGY®, Wisconsin’s statewide energy efficiency and renewable resources program.
“As a family, we have an obligation to our employees, our consumers, our community members and our environment to be a sustainable company,” said Grassland Dairy President and Owner Trevor Wuethrich after accepting the award last Thursday. “And it’s that culture as a family we try to instill in everybody. We try to lead by example.”
In 2017, Grassland Dairy completed construction of an anaerobic wastewater treatment system (WWTS) that initially burned off the biogas it produced.
Grassland Dairy’s consultant gave the family-owned dairy manufacturer information into financial assistance the Focus on Energy program could potentially provide for a study into how to beneficially use this “waste” product. The dairy ultimately received an anaerobic study incentive of $10,400 to identify the best way to utilize the biogas.
The answer was generating electricity. In 2018, Grassland Dairy worked with its utility, Xcel Energy, and multiple contractors to install a 550-kilowatt generator fueled by the biogas, receiving another financial incentive from Focus on Energy to help offset the initial cost of the project. As a result, the dairy uses what some see as a waste product to offset nearly 4,000,000 kilowatt hours of electricity each year and trim about $20,000 a month from its energy bills.
“That is good for [Grassland Dairy’s] bottom line to save on overhead as a business should do. But it’s also really responsible in regards to our environment. So, congratulations. Job well done,” said Sen. Kathy Bernier, who came to the award presentation to congratulate the company.
“Twenty-thousand dollars a month is … a pretty big deal for your business,” said Director of the Wisconsin Office of Energy Innovation Maria Redmond, who presented the award to Wuethrich and Grassland Dairy. “And you can shift [those savings] to maintenance, business expansion, jobs, other energy projects – more savings.”
It’s just the latest Focus on Energy project at Grassland Dairy, which used the program in the past to install high-efficiency steam boilers, eliminate inappropriate uses of compressed air and upgrade to variable-speed compressors. Randy Urness, an Energy Advisor with Focus on Energy, started working with the dairy on energy projects in 2012.
“They were already doing a lot of energy efficiency and environmental considerations on any projects they would do. They’ve always really … been ahead in energy efficiency and how to do the project the right way.” Urness said.
In addition, since 2016, the Grassland Dairy has completed several lighting updates that save a combined 400,000 kilowatt hours of electricity and $32,000 annually.
“Not only are they an important economic engine for this community, but they’re also giving us something to be proud about,” Rep. Jesse James said during the award presentation. “Many times, we hear about all the exciting things coming out of Madison and Milwaukee and folks tend to forget great things just don’t stop when you hit Highway 10.”
Xcel Energy is one of the 107 Wisconsin utilities that partner in the Focus on Energy program. Xcel’s Oscar Brandser has worked with Grassland Dairy since 1992 and he was among several Xcel Energy representatives who came to honor the company Thursday.
“On behalf of Xcel Energy, I want to congratulate Grassland on receiving this award,” Brandser said to those who attended the ceremony. “[It’s] very well-deserved. I’ve had a pleasure working with these folks out here.”
A recent third-party evaluation noted Focus on Energy runs the most-cost-effective energy efficiency programs in the nation. It also found every $1 invested in Focus on Energy generates more than $5 in benefits for Wisconsin, including economic benefits, reduced pollution and reduced energy costs.
About Focus on Energy
Focus on Energy is Wisconsin utilities' statewide energy efficiency and renewable resource program funded by the state's investor-owned energy utilities and participating municipal and electric cooperative utilities. Focus on Energy works with eligible Wisconsin residents and businesses to install cost-effective energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. Focus on Energy information, resources and financial incentives help to implement projects that otherwise would not be completed. Its efforts help Wisconsin residents and businesses manage rising energy costs, promote in-state economic development, protect our environment and control Wisconsin's growing demand for electricity and natural gas. For more information call 800.762.7077 or visit focusonenergy.com.
About Grassland Dairy
Recognized worldwide for its quality butter products and dairy ingredients, Grassland Dairy commits to exceeding the needs of its dairy retail, foodservice and industrial customers.
Photo: Representatives from Xcel Energy, Grassland Dairy, Focus on Energy, Martin Energy Group, Suda Plumbing, and Total Filtration Resources. Also pictured: Maria Redmond - Public Service Commission of Wisconsin, Senator Kathy Bernier, and Representative Jesse James.
Xcel Energy (Northern States Power)