ST. MARYS — An Ohio-based firm netted a $1 million federal grant to help bring a methane digester to the region.
Quasar Energy Group received the grant as part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resource Conservation Service’s Conservation Innovation Grant program. On Monday, the USDA officials awarded $22.5 million in grants to projects in 40 states. In March, Quasar applied for the grant to help cover costs associated with building a digester that would take livestock waste and convert it into energy in an effort to prevent nutrients from entering Grand Lake St. Marys.
“Not only will this help clean up the lake, it will also help create jobs in the clean energy industry,” U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown said in a news release. “This project will serve as a national model for an innovative solution to clean up toxic algae blooms creating jobs and provide consumers with a source of clean, domestic energy. Grand Lake St. Marys has been an economic anchor of Mercer and Auglaize counties and I remain committed to pursuing all possible solutions to restore it.”
In a letter he penned to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack in March, Brown touted the digesters as serving as a possible revenue stream for farmers as well as a way to cut down on nutrient loading into Grand Lake St. Marys. The devices also would provide a place for livestock farmers to take manure without having to haul it out of the region, which can be costly. Earlier this year, Brown placed the cost of a digester at $2.2 million.
Mel Kurtz, president of Quasar Energy Group, addressed members of the Lake Improvement Association during their February meeting regarding digesters. During that meeting, he said the payback on a digester, with existing grant programs and federal funding, is three to six years. Without the funding, Kurtz said the payback is six to 10 years.
“Government has stepped in to regulate a situation in Grand Lake St. Marys and prevent it from getting worse,” Kurtz said in a news release. “With the CIG grant, we will be working to make the situation better by creating a portable technology to separate nutrients and remove them from the watershed. This project will not only be about impacting the region — but about demonstrating a technology that will benefit every farmer and every wastewater treatment plant that is struggling with a nutrient management issue.”