Muscoda Cheesemaker Sees Major Energy Cost Savings through Digester Project
Muscoda, Wis. – Meister Cheese Company LLC’s long history of energy efficiency projects – along with a large recent efficiency investment – has earned it an Energy Efficiency Excellence Award.
FOCUS ON ENERGY®, Wisconsin’s energy efficiency and renewable resources program, presented the award to Meister Cheese President Scott Meister at the company’s Muscoda facility on Tuesday.
“It is … an honor. We are off the beaten path. You have to make an effort to get to Muscoda and we appreciate that everyone comes out.” Meister said of the award and the large group that came to congratulate the company on winning it.
“I’ve worked with Scott and his team here at Meister Cheese and Muscoda Protein for several years,” said Jim Schwingle of Muscoda Utilities, a member of WPPI Energy. “They’re always very enthusiastic about utilizing the [energy efficiency] programs that are available through Focus on Energy and through Muscoda Utilities.”
Meister Cheese has leveraged Focus on Energy expertise and financial incentives over the years to complete lighting, cooling and other efficiency projects. In 2017, Meister subsidiary, Muscoda Protein Products LLP, undertook a $1.7 million effort to install an anaerobic lagoon for treating cheese production wastewater that contains high concentrations of biodegradable organic matter.
Focus on Energy offered technical support on the project, which went online in 2018, and gave Meister Cheese a financial incentive of $170,000 to help offset the initial cost of the major investment in energy efficiency technology.
At the anaerobic lagoon site, microorganisms convert the waste stream’s organic matter into biogas, which is captured and used as a turbine fuel source to generate electricity that offsets the facility’s use of electricity from the utility grid. In addition, heat from the generator engine and its exhaust system is captured and returned to the treatment process, thereby offsetting the facility’s use of natural gas.
“Overall, a wastewater disposal issue was effectively leveraged into an opportunity,” said Dustin Schneider, the Energy Advisor from Focus on Energy who works with Meister Cheese. “It cost-effectively mitigates a waste disposal issue and offsets what was energy consumption with a renewable resource.”
By beneficially utilizing their waste products, Muscoda Protein Products and Meister Cheese will avoid using nearly 130,000 therms of natural gas and 2.2 million kilowatt hours of electricity annually, saving the company an estimated $200,000 per year in energy costs.
“It was a big project for us. So far, it has delivered, and it will deliver for years to come. That’s one thing that was a big factor … it will last a long time, so it will be a solution for a long time,” Meister said. “Dairy processing is pretty energy intensive and we want to make sure we’re as efficient and cost-effective with our utility purchase as possible; keep us competitive.”
Jolene Sheil, Director of the Focus on Energy program at the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin, presented the award to Scott Meister, noting the number of people at the award presentation and the collaboration of different groups to complete the project.
“I think it’s a very good example of what we are trying to do with the [Focus on Energy] program throughout the state.” Sheil said.
The anaerobic lagoon project also benefits the surrounding community by removing some 60 to 80 loads of waste material per month that otherwise would be trucked away for disposal.
“Thank you to everybody who had a role in this. This doesn’t happen without a lot of hands and a lot of help,” said Sen. Howard Marklein, who came to congratulate Meister Cheese. “Thank you Meister Cheese for your incredible economic impact in this area. Dairy is still a big part of the economy in this area and our farmers need a market. And Meister Cheese has provided that market for … a lot of farmers in the area.”
“Obviously, this project is important. We appreciate your commitment to energy efficiency,” said Rep. Travis Tranel, who represents Muscoda in the state legislature. “But [hiring] hundreds of employees in rural southwest Wisconsin and providing a market for our farms to add value to what they do – that economic impact trickles throughout the entire community.”
Muscoda Utilities is one of 107 Wisconsin utilities that partner with the Focus on Energy program. Customers of those utilities are eligible for the energy expertise and financial incentives Focus on Energy provides.
A recent third-party evaluation noted Focus on Energy runs the most-cost-effective statewide energy efficiency programs in the country. It also found every $1 invested in Focus on Energy generates more than $5 in benefits for the state of Wisconsin, including economic benefits, reduced energy costs and reduced pollution.
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.
Photo: Representatives from Focus on Energy, Strand Associates, Meister Cheese, Muscoda Utilities, WPPI Energy, and the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin. Also pictured: Representative Travis Trannel and Sentator Howard Marklein.