When it comes to finding cleaner greener sources of electrical power, people across the globe are starting to think outside of the box in order to reduce carbon emissions and increase efficiency. Coal, solar, wind and hydro may be the most common sources to power your home, but there is a new energy moo-vement catching on that could be a win-win for everybody. A dairy farm produces milk, of course, but new technology has allowed farmers to begin producing their own electricity – using that least-desirable by-product of cows: manure. Dairy farms full of livestock are being transformed into modern day power plants.
Cows produce a lot of manure. One cow can create an incredible 30 gallons of manure each day. Now imagine the output of the US’ 100 million cattle. That’s one big pile of cow pies.
When farmers clean their barns, they put the manure in a big heap, and spread most of it on their fields for fertilizer. But now, farmers have a new way to handle their cow manure. They use it to make electricity. Manure can be converted on site to a form of fuel called biogas. Biogas can be burned for heat, cooking, generate electricity, or it can be sold to power utility companies elsewhere.
Here’s how it works: A big pooper scooper that looks like a giant squeegee moves back and forth cleaning the barn floor. The scooper pushes the manure into a big 600-gallon concrete tank, similar to a swimming pool. The tank is called a digester because what happens there is just like what happens inside a cow: bacteria called anaerobic digesters get to work and continue to break down the manure.
Methane gas in the atmosphere is known as a “greenhouse” gas because it traps heat just like a greenhouse does, causing our planet to warm up. That’s an environmental concern. But the digester process has a positive outcome and provides an environmental benefit. The methane gas is captured and used as a fuel to power electric generators. Capturing the methane to use for electricity prevents it from entering the atmosphere. The product that is left after the digester is finished is a byproduct that is a nutrient rich, odor-free fertilizer that can be used for compost or even cow bedding.
Many believe this cow green energy moo-vement is the global future of fuel. Many parts of the world have started to move away from the other types of biofuels like corn ethanol and even biodiesel. Both of these fuels use a food source as a main component which has created a growing controversy, particularly with the growing food shortages that have been on the rise.
The amazing power of poo is a renewable resource that is capable of saving over 200 billion tons of greenhouse gases per year in theUSalone! Scientists have estimated that converting manure from the 100 million cows in theUnited States, would produce renewable energy equal to 8 billion gallons of gasoline, or 1% of the total energy consumption in the nation. When you think about it, it’s pretty amazing what cows can do! Converting cow manure into a renewable source of fuel is one of those rare situations in which everybody and everything wins – especially the environment!
Learn More About Cow Power by visiting Central Vermont Public Service