Early America depended heavily on the cow, for its food, milk and hide. In fact peoples’ livelihoods often depended on whether they had a cow or not. As our civilization advanced, this dependence on cows waned. Now only a very small percentage of Americans actually own cows.
However, there is one thing modern civilization may desperately need the cow for — and that’s renewable energy.
Electricity Today: Demand Increasing, Supply Decreasing
Power generation is a hot topic today. Our dependence on electricity is undeniable. And we’re running out of ways to produce it. Everyone — from politicians to scientists and environmentalists — is looking for sources of renewable energy. The challenge is finding energy that is clean, comes with a low-cost and is readily available, now and in the future.
The Power in Manure
Many believe the answer to our energy problems is using methane power technology, or cow power, which basically means converting cow manure into energy.
There are some significant benefits to methane power. By using methane power technology, scientists are improving the odor in the environment while providing clean animal bedding. More importantly, they’re reducing methane emissions and, of course, generating renewable electric power. Five thousand cows can produce up to 500kW — that’s enough to light up a single-family home for a month.
So forget about the generator in the basement. All you need is 5,000 cows, and you’ll be good to go, right? Well, it’s a little more complicated than that. Can you even imagine hauling all that manure? You’d be searching the ads for used caterpillar equipment for sale. So we might want to leave this to the experts and the farmers.
From Cow to Electricity
The whole process begins by storing cow dung in a covered area so it naturally decomposes. When it decomposes, it releases methane gas, which can be used as a source of energy.
The gas is trapped and piped to a gas scrubber where any potential contaminants are eliminated. Then it’s fed to an electric power generator and — voila! — electricity is produced. Farms can use this electricity and sell any they don’t use to utility providers.
This process could change the way we view and get our electricity — as well as, of course, the way we view cows! Just like all alternative energy sources, it will take time for the technology to evolve into a practical application.
Guest post contributed by Carly Fierro. Passionate about technology and animals, Carly likes to write about anything from protecting endangered species to the newest forms of power generation.
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