"Cows are better than condos"

In Lushootseed, the language of the Coast Salish people, Qualco means “where two rivers come together”.

Qualco Energy is a unique nonprofit partnership between Werkhoven Dairy and the Native American Tulalip tribes that has been operating an anaerobic digester near the confluence of the Snoqualmie and Skykomish rivers since 2008.

Qualco is now the product of 24 years of collaboration between dairy farmers, salmon habitat recovery organizations, and the Tulalip tribes.  Each entity brings expertise to the table in the air, soil, food production and water stewardship fields which has allowed Qualco to prove that working together is always the preferred method of tackling tough worldwide issues like potential pollution.

The benefits of the digester has grown over the years into being a key tool in the community.  Food waste streams from urban cities as far as 50 miles away are diverted from landfills and water treatment plants to responsibly recycle them back into useable fertilizer while capturing the greenhouse gasses (methane) that are generated from the natural digestion process.  That gas is then converted into renewable energy instead of lost into the atmosphere.

The main feedstock of cow manure is converted into an environmentally safer organic fertilizer now that salmonella and coliform pathogens are killed in the anaerobic digester.  Nutrients like nitrogen are mineralized in the process and much easier to agronomically apply to crop fields.

The catch phrase “Cows are better than condos” was coined by a Tulalip tribes councilmember.  In the world of salmon habitat and clean water it is imperative that healthy and productive agricultural soils be protected just as vigilantly as our waterways.  Soil is that best living water filter on the planet and growing crops with organic renewable fertilizers is not only important for feeding the world but also for pulling carbon out of the air and putting it back into soil where it belongs.  Simply put, supporting farmers and keeping them in business does more for the environment than pushing them out with urban growth or with constricting regulation.

After 14 years of successfully generating enough power for 300 local homes, Qualco invited a new partner (with electrical generation expertise) to join the effort.  That new partner is Snohomish County PUD who is going to take over the electrical generation with a new genset producing for 600 homes (Summer 2022).

Board of Directors

The Qualco board is composed of members from each of the three organizations:

Northwest Chinook Recovery
Clare Nordquist

Tulalip Tribes
Daryl Williams – Qualco President
Ryan Miller

Werkhoven Dairy
Jon Van Nieuwenhuyzen – Qualco Operator
Andy Werkhoven

Partner Links

digester 08

The lid of the digester, which is 16 feet deep and holds 1,452,000 gallons

generator 04

The generator set

reception pit 05

After traveling 1.5 miles through an underground pipeline from the farm, manure arrives at the reception pit