Jorge Chapa

POO POWER: Could Cow Poo Power Your Home?

by , 06/19/07

cow power, cows, electricity, house, pg&E, pacific gas and electricity, methane digester, methane, power your house, could cow farts power your home?

When it comes to finding cleaner greener sources of electrical power, we’re going to have to start thinking out of the box a bit if we want to reduce carbon emissions and increase efficiency. Coal, solar, wind and hydro may be the most common sources to power your home, but now you can now add cow poop to the list as well. And no we’re not kidding…


Cows produce the greenhouse gas methane through their belches, farts and poop. The very thought may ellicit giggles, but methane represents a serious threat for global warming — it’s a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide. When you have thousands of cows packed into very small areas on industrial dairy farms (such as in California), you are looking at a serious methane problem. Naturally it makes sense then to try to kill two birds with one stone and turn the methane gas into something useful (like a source of energy) while breaking it down.

While they haven’t yet produced a specific module for bovine emissions, Velocys, a company in Ohio, has come up with a method to refine the methane gas that is the byproduct of a number of industrial processes. The methane is moved through microchannels, mixed with carbon and then frozen, allowing the nitrogen that is in the compound to pass through, thus purifying the gas, so that it may be used as a power source.

cow power, cows, electricity, house, pg&E, pacific gas and electricity, methane digester, methane, power your house

Meanwhile, PG&E, the California utility company that wants to get you to power your house with your car, recently signed an agreement with BioEnery Solutions that will allow them to provide enough natural gas which they plan to get from cow poop for about 50,000 homes. BioEnergy is a company that retrofits a lagoon of cow manure, in order to to trap the methane that is being produced as it manure decomposes. The methane is then cleaned so that it can be used to generate electricity. Their first project for this partnership will be installed on Vintage Dairy, in Fresno County.

Methane digesters aren’t a new technology, but they are starting to be applied more widely. In 2004, Albert Strauss installed a similar system on his farm in Marin County, and started to sell it back to PG&E. It was the first of 14 proposed systems that were being tested in the hopes that it could become another outlet for power generation. It’s a technology that has been in existence for years, though it was to costly to install it. Here’s hoping that the new developments in technology and and PG&E’s deal with BioEnergy is another step in the right direction.

+ How Stinky Gas can Save the Earth @ Wired
+ Pacific Gas and Electric Company
+ 270 cows generating electricity for farm @ SF Chronicle

Each cow at Straus Farms on Tomales Bay produce about 120 pounds of manure each day. Chronicle photo by John O’Hara

Related Posts

LEAVE A COMMENT

or your inhabitat account below

Let's make sure you're a real person:


41 Comments

  1. Nozipho Tshikosi December 29, 2011 at 1:47 am

    Excellent story, I just wish South African government can capitalize on this in powering its rural parts of the country (since there are so many cows). Imagine how dramatic their lives can change if this is implemented. As people we need to think out of the box !

  2. Elizabeth May 24, 2009 at 5:12 pm

    This is very fascinating! But seriously, why can’t we use our own manure? I think we have to create opportunities not obstacles. Some people will be ready for this and some will not. I think the American culture need to catch up with UK and Canada. They are so ahead of us in terms of environmental living.

  3. e vincent February 25, 2009 at 10:28 pm

    hi i just wanted to know how much poo you will need to power 18MW

  4. Aiden May 23, 2008 at 9:31 am

    yes, this is a great story/research, whatever…
    i enjoy it. i find it to be awesome. i also want this to happen for all of America or the world, but i don\’t think that all of us are going to want to do that. one it\’s expensive to get set up and two not all of us own cows. i also think that if something like this were to strike us big, then it would be just like the oil companies and how gas is $4.oo a gallon, almost. I mean don\’t you think it would transverse the power and money over to the people who own cows? and yes, i know there are billions of cows and there\’s TONS of methane \”product\” to go around, i mean a lot more than petroleum itself…but would this really be a better solution to a recession and how poor people are becoming from the high prices? i just i don\’t know.
    but i believe in this possibly helping things out.

    the next thing we need to figure out then is how to get cow poop to power vehicles…

  5. Zero Energy and Green B... March 13, 2008 at 10:14 am

    [...] Poop-power is not a new phenomenon, as methane-powered generators have existed for a while, and even larger scale developments have used poo-power as a way to meet energy needs. But powering a state with poo? This is exactly what Californian utility PG&E has just started to do, by creating natural gas from a vat of liquid-cow poo, in what is probably the smelliest (but smartest) way ever to produce any form of renewable energy. [...]

  6. Inhabitat » POO P... March 13, 2008 at 9:38 am

    [...] Poop-power is not a new phenomenon, as methane-powered generators have existed for a while, and even larger scale developments have used poo-power as a way to meet energy needs. But powering a state with poo? This is exactly what Californian utility PG&E has just started to do, by creating natural gas from a vat of liquid-cow poo, in what is probably the smelliest (but smartest) way ever to produce any form of renewable energy. [...]

  7. payton March 12, 2008 at 12:57 pm

    yay we can have crap in our houses!!!!!!!!!!!

  8. peter March 12, 2008 at 12:54 pm

    ha

  9. peter March 12, 2008 at 12:53 pm

    wow this is cool. I wantmy house covered in s*!%

  10. Inhabitat » The B... March 12, 2008 at 7:22 am

    [...] 5. PGO Cevennes Turbo-CNG PGO automobiles has introduced a 4-cylinder 150 hp methane powered roadster which can run fully on biogas. Were it to run on biogas, this would pretty much be one of the most environmentally friendly vehicles in the market. Alas, at the moment, it is only a possibility, so while we decided to feature it on our list, we must mention that it is not very fuel efficient. Now if we could run it on cow manure. [...]

  11. vinoth February 23, 2008 at 12:19 am

    sir
    i want to put gobar gas plant am not having basic ideas plz help me.

  12. Jayden January 18, 2008 at 1:56 pm

    My famliy runs a feedlot with 550 cows. how in the worald do we stop the mathan? What do we stick cork up there buts so they cant fart.

  13. Mr Mark Pickard January 4, 2008 at 3:00 pm

    Hello im a farmer from the uk, and we are looking into coming out of the farming side and working with something more greener, we have beef cows and sheep and i would like to ask you if you could send me more information about tureing poo into power . thankyou M Pickard

  14. Mr. Green January 4, 2008 at 2:25 am

    Of course this is real, this tech is already known in the industry. Check out a little green company publicly traded as IESV. They are trying to make this tech a reality.

  15. Inhabitat » PIG-P... November 5, 2007 at 3:58 am

    [...] feces with ‘clean’ energy, the Lapa Rios Ecolodge in Costa Rica manages to makes pig poo power seem smart, sexy and super sustainable with their environmentally friendly resort. Started by John [...]

  16. World Design O! »... October 26, 2007 at 7:26 am

    [...] read more | digg story [...]

  17. amy October 19, 2007 at 2:14 pm

    kk. i would love for everyone to use cow poo 4 electricity.

  18. Power Your Home: Top 5 ... August 6, 2007 at 6:06 pm

    [...] methane gas which can be harnessed as renewable energy. Find out more about harvesting poo power in Inhabitat’s article on the subject as well as Science a Go Go’s article. (photo courtesy of [...]

  19. Inhabitat » WORLD... July 21, 2007 at 5:35 am

    [...] plant announced by this company. Last month, it announced a partnership with PG&E (last seen here, and here) that they would be building the third largest solar array in the country, also in [...]

  20. The Latest Architectura... July 16, 2007 at 1:09 pm

    [...] to out there to sink your trendspotting teeth into. From kinetic energy to sound-power and even natural waste (yes, poo), there are more and more creative, weird, and super-promising ways to deliver all the power you [...]

  21. Inhabitat » TOP 5... July 16, 2007 at 11:58 am

    [...] into, and inspire your future-forward imagination. From kinetic energy to sound-power and even natural waste (yes, poo), there are more and more creative, weird, and super-promising ways to deliver all the power you [...]

  22. popho » Random Va... July 5, 2007 at 9:33 pm

    [...] Really neat article about how feces might be used as a power source. Does this mean that one day the world of Aachi & Ssipak will be a reality? I certainly hope [...]

  23. ranganath.kn June 30, 2007 at 5:56 am

    Please tell me about the possibility of power generation by the gobar gas plants. For running a pump of 5 hp motor, what all the set up which we have to along with the gobar gas plant.

  24. David Mackey June 22, 2007 at 7:51 pm

    Reminds me of the American Civil War. Confederates did not have the resources for gunpowder, so they began emptying latrines and converting some of the byproducts into a very efficient gunpowder.

  25. Jorge Chapa Jorge June 21, 2007 at 7:14 pm

    Ask and you shall receive. From the department of energy website, a list of global warming potentials by gas, with CO2 being the unit of measurement, it shows that methane has a global warming potential that is 23 times that of CO2
    List of Global Warming Potentials

  26. Motorcycle Guy June 21, 2007 at 5:31 pm

    I would like to see some facts that state it is a more potent greenhouse gas than co2. I’m not saying i believe co2 is all that bad, i just methane is 20 TIMES more potent.

  27. Rashmita June 20, 2007 at 8:27 pm

    This concept has been prevalant in India for a long long time.
    As found in Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cow_dung

    In many parts of the developing world, cow dung is used as a fertilizer and fuel. Caked and dried cow dung is used as a fuel to cook food in many parts of Asia and Africa. Especially in India where it is known as gobar, cow dung is also used as manure.

    In recent times, the dung is collected and used as biogas used to generate electricity and heat. The gas is a rich source of methane and is used in rural areas of India to provide a renewable and stable source of electricity.

    Cow dung is also used to line the floor and walls of buildings owing to its insect repellent properties. In cold places, cow dung is used to line the walls of rustic houses as is a cheap thermal insulator. Cow dung has an excellent mosquito repellent property and is used by many companies to produce repellents.[citation needed]

    It was also used extensively on Indian Railways to seal smokeboxes on steam locomotives.

  28. J June 20, 2007 at 4:00 pm

    I’m in favour of utilizing whatever – and every – kind of waste that works for the purpose, so turkey, cow, etc. is “all good!” IMHO.
    (Not relevant to this article but … I just wish the idea of using corn for fuel would GO AWAY! Corn is tremendously hard on the land; and can’t be successfully grown – on a commerical/”fuel source” scale – without outrageous amounts of herbicides.)

  29. vetti June 20, 2007 at 12:15 pm

    This has been done in india for a couple of decades.The impetus behind poo gas(gobar gas) electricity was economics and the infrastucrure issues in rural india.It has been sucessful over the past few decades.The difference in industrial construction versus rural construction has been in the efficiency of the system.

  30. Zarby June 20, 2007 at 4:10 am

    I stayed on a farm in Austria in 2005 and the manure from the cows, which were in a barn, was scraped mechanically and used to generate electricity with a modified diesel engine. The electricity was sold to the power company as a revenue generator for the farm.

    Also the BBC tv show TopGear had a segment a few years ago where they had a drag race in three identical cars, one on petrol, one on methane from cows and one on methane from humans, the cars finished in the order I just said but the point is that there are vast energy sources that remain untapped.

  31. a June 19, 2007 at 10:55 pm

    It is called biogas in India and used quite a lot there.

  32. ASBH: 19 June 2007 &laq... June 19, 2007 at 9:14 pm

    [...] being collected. Check out this article from Wired for more info on Velocys’s work and this article from Inhabitat for information on a pilot program in [...]

  33. Tom June 19, 2007 at 6:07 pm

    http://www.iht.com/articles/2007/06/06/europe/manure.php

    BENSON, Minnesota: For anyone curious about what thousands of tons of turkey manure looks like, piled high in an olfactory-assaulting mountain, this old railroad stop on the extreme edge of alternative energy production is the place to be.

    Thanks to the abundance of local droppings, Benson is home to a new $200 million power plant that burns turkey waste to produce electricity. For the last few weeks, fuel has poured in from nearby farms by the truckload, filling a hall several stories high.

  34. Leonard June 19, 2007 at 5:35 pm

    To see a video I made about other ways in which cows are producing energy and a huge variety of videos I’ve made about life on planet earth, follow the link below to the video, then click on my name to see an index of many others. I am based in Seattle, WA. Thanks

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1JU8Os3yNEI

  35. Pixellore - Design. Gad... June 19, 2007 at 4:51 pm

    [...] power your home, but now you can add cow manure to the list as well. And no we’re not kidding…read more | digg [...]

  36. Jase Roberts June 19, 2007 at 4:39 pm

    We’ve had this in Vermont for several years. Customers of CVPS can choose to buy power generated from methane: http://www.cvps.com/cowpower/ They call it CVPS “Cow Power”

    -Jase

  37. perx June 19, 2007 at 4:35 pm

    sureley municipal sewage plants would also be capable of producing usable gas

  38. Poop Powered House June 19, 2007 at 3:22 pm

    [...] Story- inhabitat.com    Read More    Post a [...]

  39. Jon June 19, 2007 at 12:20 pm

    Jorge,

    Don’t cows emit 95% of their methane emissions through their mouths?
    There is a bacteria within cows that produces the methane.
    Scientists believe that they have found a way to eliminate that bacteria without any harm to the animal.

    Jon

  40. Jason June 19, 2007 at 12:14 pm

    What a load of crap…

  41. Shelly June 19, 2007 at 11:58 am

    Thanks for the inspiring story-I love the thought of cow poop powering my home!

  • Read Inhabitat

  • Search Categories

  • Recent Posts

  • Recent Comments

  • Browse by Keyword

get the free Inhabitat newsletter

Submit this form
popular today
all time
most commented
more popular stories >
more popular stories >
more popular stories >
What are you looking for? (Solar, HVAC, etc.)
Where are you located?