Here at one of the largest dairy farms in the country, electricity generated using an endless supply of manure runs the equipment to milk around 30,000 cows three times a day.
For years, the farm has used livestock waste to create enough natural gas to power 10 barns, a cheese factory, a cafe, a gift shop and a maze of child-friendly exhibits about the world of dairy, including a 3D movie theater.
All that, and Fair Oaks Farms was still using only about half of the five million pounds of cow manure it vacuumed up from its barn floors on a daily basis. It burned off the excess methane, wasted energy sacrificed to the sky.
But not anymore.
The farm is now turning the extra manure into fuel for its delivery trucks, powering 42 tractor-trailers that make daily runs to raw milk processing plants in Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee. Officials from the federal Department of Energy called the endeavor a “pacesetter” for the dairy industry, and said it was the largest natural gas fleet using agricultural waste to drive this nation’s roads.
“As long as we keep milking cows, we never run out of gas,” said Gary Corbett, chief executive of Fair Oaks, which held a ribbon-cutting event for the project this month and opened two fueling stations to the public…
The American Gas Association estimates there are about 1,200 natural gas fueling stations operating across the country, the vast majority of which are supplied by the same pipelines that heat houses.
But the growing market is also drawing interest from livestock farmers, landfill management companies and other industries handling methane-rich material that, if harnessed, could create a nearly endless supply of cleaner, safer, sustainable “biogas,” while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
To be sure, no one is pretending that waste-to-energy projects will become a major part of the larger natural gas vehicle market. But supporters say it could provide additional incentive to make biogas systems, which have lagged behind other sustainable energy solutions, more commercially viable.
RTFA. Partnerships are growing between dairy farmers and NatGas industry providers. They say we’ll be surprised how much they will grow over the next five years.
I’m ready to be surprised. In fact, I’m looking forward to it.
A home in Halliberu – solar panel on the roof
On a January evening, Anand is shelling betel nuts by the light of an electric lamp in Halliberu, his village in India’s Karnataka state.
As his friends gather on the lamp-lit porch to swap stories, children play in the yard…Inside, after decades of cooking in the dark, Anand’s mother prepares the evening meal while a visiting neighbor weaves garlands of flowers.
In October, Bangalore-based Simpa Networks Inc. installed a solar panel on Anand’s whitewashed adobe house along with a small metal box in his living room to monitor electricity usage. The 25-year-old rice farmer, who goes by one name, purchases energy credits to unlock the system via his mobile phone on a pay-as-you-go model.
When his balance runs low, Anand pays 50 rupees ($1) — money he would have otherwise spent on kerosene. Then he receives a text message with a code to punch into the box, giving him about another week of electric light.
When he pays off the full cost of the system in about three years, it will be unlocked and he will get free power.
Prisoner poop + cow poop
In order to reduce energy costs and protect Rwanda’s forests, the country’s 14 prison have introduced biogas burners, so they are now 75% powered by the inmates’ own waste. The burners need one thing – a regular, reliable supply of waste – and jails are perfect.
The biogas is produced by combining the inmates’ waste from Nsinda Prison’s 24 toilets with cow dung from the jail’s farm cows and water. The prisoners’ diet is not rich enough to produce top quality gas on its own but the pungent cocktail of human and animal waste produces premium gas.
Way too smart for anyone running a prison in the US to adopt.
What to do with 12,000 tonnes of pig poo? That’s the question farmers James Hart and Jeremy Iles found themselves asking two years ago when contemplating how best to supplement their dwindling incomes.
Thanks to the buying power of the major supermarkets, pig farming is no longer as profitable as it once was, and Mr Hart in particular was looking at ways to make the most of the resources at his disposal.
The solution they came up with was beautifully simple; turn the huge amount of pig faeces generated on the farm – not to mention cow dung and chicken droppings – into hard cash…
Glebe Farm near the sleepy village of Hatherop in Gloucestershire is an unlikely place to stumble across a state-of-the-art, million pound biogas station of which there are just a handful in the UK.
The plant itself is wholly unremarkable to look at, but what goes on inside could help to revolutionise not just this farm, but hundreds of others just like it across the country.
In fact, the technology is proven and, given the government subsidies available, profitable. It’s just that, like with most renewable energies, the UK has been painstakingly slow on the uptake. In Germany, for example, there are thousands of similar plants.
In essence, vast quantities of animal waste are mixed with lots of grass in a cylindrical tower – “basically a 3,000 tonne cow’s stomach,” says Mr Hart.
Bacteria then break down the mixture, producing methane, which is siphoned off, cleaned and filtered.
This gas is then used to power what is effectively a £200,000 Mercedes truck engine, which in turn powers a generator, electricity from which is fed into the National Grid.
A by-product of the process is large quantities of fertiliser that remain in the tower once the bacteria have worked their magic.
The heat generated by the process is also captured and used for central heating at the farm house. It is, then, in renewable-energy speak, an efficient ‘closed-loop’ system.
No doubt the inevitable whine will burp from the blowhole of conservative critics – exclaiming over there being any sort of subsidy for new technology. Conveniently forgetting all the established “old” technology has always managed a government subsidy for the good of the people.
RTFA for lots of interesting detail.
Creating renewable energy from whisky might sound like a harebrained scheme conceived at the end of a long evening drinking the amber nectar. But an independently-owned Scottish distillery is hoping that the installation of a new biogas generator will prove to be a lasting moment of environmental clarity and help solve their energy problems.
This month, Bruichladdich — one of eight distilleries to be found on the Scottish isle of Islay — will take delivery of an anaerobic digester which will start turning their whisky waste into electricity.
Mark Reynier, owner of Bruichladdich Distillery, hopes the digester will meet around 80 percent of its electricity needs and save the company up to $175,000 every year.
Reynier told CNN: “Our waste product is basically water left over after you’ve stripped all the alcohol out. It’s called, rather unromantically, pot ale.”
Every year, several hundred thousand liters of pot ale waste are taken away by a tanker and poured down a pipeline that feeds it into the Sound of Islay off the eastern coast of the island.
Its disposal is a costly business (in the region of $30,000 annually) and allied to rising energy costs it has forced the distillery to rethink how it sources its energy.
“We’ve looked at biomass and green energies and dismissed them one by one as being completely impractical and uneconomic for an industrial purpose,” Reynier said. “But one thing we can do is use this proven technology and generate biogas…”
If the biogas trial proves a success, the pot ale that was pumped into the sea on a daily basis will instead be continuously fed into the digester creating something of a virtuous production circle.
But Reynier says transforming the distillery isn’t about being “some sort of eco-warrior” but rather about just trying to be sensible.
“We are practical people — you have to be on an island like this,” he said.
I’d love to help him out with practical solutions like this. They could pay me in single malt – anytime.
A second plant that converts cow dung into energy for homes opened in the Netherlands.
Manure from cows at a nearby dairy farm will be fermented along with grass and food industry residues, and the biogas released during the process will be used as fuel for the thermal plant’s gas turbines.
The heat generated will be distributed to around 1,100 homes in the area around Leeuwarden in the north of the Netherlands, the plant’s operator Essent said in a statement.
Firms in Europe and elsewhere have been investing in biogas plants and this is the second of its scale running on cow manure in the Netherlands. It follows another plant that Essent opened in January.
Why is this restricted to cow poop? Seems to me any kind of poop could be used – along with the scraps and garbage our civilization manages to produce.
Biogas is biogas. The electricity and excess calories of heat produced won’t know the difference if it’s cow or human sourced.
Think of what we could get from a regular session of Congress.
The gasworks is at the other end!
A German town will become the first in the world to be powered by animal waste when it launches a biogas network this year.
Lünen, north of Dortmund, will use cow and horse manure as well as other organic material from local farms to provide cheap and sustainable electricity for its 90,000 residents.
Biogas is already used around the world – it will power buses in Oslo from September – but Lünen claims to be the only town to build a dedicated biogas network.
Material such as animal slurry and spoiled crops from local farms will be fed into heated tanks, where natural fermentation will break it down into methane and carbon dioxide – the same basic ingredients as natural gas. This biogas can then be burned to generate electricity and heat in a combined heat and power plant (CHP) before the heat is distributed across the town through a new biogas pipeline, which is being built underground…
The benefits of biogas are clear, say its developers. “This sustainable technology allows local production of local power, reducing reliance on fossil fuels and fuel imports,” said Kindt.
Using everything to completion instead of burying “waste” is what most human beings used to do. Between conspicuous consumption, planned obsolescence, fast food and diminishing education standards – we managed to give up on most lifetsyles based upon efficiency and good sense.
We have too many politicians who never had to live day-to-day through a war or recession. They sit around and pontificate from their country clubs and talk shows. The rest of us are out here surviving on what we earn.