(Beaver Dam) One of the biggest decisions coming before the Beaver Dam Common Council this year will be the selection of a multi-million-dollar plan to control the phosphorus that enters the Beaver Dam river from the city’s wastewater treatment plant. Officials will have to choose from four options and the most expensive option is also the only one that would generate revenue to offset costs to rate payers. At $25-million dollars, a plan to convert the phosphorus into a bioplastic for use in items like shoes is $10-millon dollars more than the next cheapest option. Projected revenue from the bioplastics would be close to $1-million a year.
It’s not the first time Beaver Dam has taken a chance on the possibility of generating revenue with cutting-edge, environmentally-friendly technology. Nearly a decade ago, the city entered into a partnership with Kraft Foods and Alliant Energy to take a whey byproduct from Kraft’s Beaver Dam plant and convert it to biogas which would be used to generate electricity. In 2009, the city was awarded $20 million in stimulus money to construct its wastewater treatment plant; half was an outright grant while the other half was a low-interest, tax-free loan.
Early projections were that the city would save about a quarter million dollars a year in electricity costs; those savings were never realized. Alliant Energy has also been buying electricity from the city, originally estimated at another quarter million dollars annually. Utility Director Rob Minnema told us recently on WBEV’s Community Comment that Beaver Dam is receiving about $220-thousand dollars annually from Alliant though the city is only running one of its two biogas generators. As Beaver Dam’s ten-year contract with Alliant is coming to an end in 2020, Minnema says the city would continue to see benefits even without a renewal. Minnema says if the Alliant contract is not renewed, the city would save $180-to-$190-thousand dollars a year by generating its own electricity from biogas.