Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Cow Power

This isn't the first time I have heard of converting cow manure to electricity but since it was in the New York Times yesterday, I am pleased to see it must be catching on. What sort of genius came up with this idea? Seriously, turning cow poop in to electricity has so many positive environmental effects:

  1. Reduces the amount of methane (cow's 'gas') in the air (top contributor to ozone layer depletion)
  2. Provides sustainable energy to homes while generating another source of revenue for farms
  3. When the poop is separated, the solid matter serves as bedding for the cows (RECYCLING!)
This is seriously thinking outside the box! If we can power houses on cow poop, the possibilities are endless!!

While this has not caught on to the dairy farm masses, this practice has been around since 2005. Here are some of the best excerpts from the New York Times article:
The Rowells’ cows live in a barn where a mechanical scraper sweeps the animals’ waste into a large drain. The waste is then pumped into a huge sealed concrete tank known as a digester, which holds 21 days’ worth of waste and is kept at a temperature of 101 degrees Fahrenheit. Anaerobic bacteria break down the organic matter in the waste, producing a mix of methane and other gases, known as bio-gas. The gas is burned in an engine that runs an electrical generator.

The cow waste produces 250 to 300 kilowatts of electricity daily, enough to power 300 to 350 homes, according to the utility.

“We’re making a resource out of a waste stream,” said Bill Rowell, who is running for the State Senate

“We’re saving money by not using sawdust, reducing original waste by recycling and generating revenue by selling electricity into the grid,” Ms. Audet said.

This is seriously innovative and extremely cool. If dairy farmers can figure out ways of turning poop to gold and do their part for the environment in the process, we can all reevaluate our lives to make the small changes. A local shop owner, who gets her electricity from the cow poop said it best:

“It’s worth it to us to spend that money to help the producers and use power that helps sustain the environment,” Ms. Hatch said. “When you live in a place like we do, which is a beautiful part of the country, you’re really aware of the environment and want to keep it that way."
Here's a great link to a photo slide show of this process that I found on Flickr: