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.
The thought of decomposing cow poop might elicit some gags, but the fact is, the methane produced from it is no laughing matter. As manure decomposes, it produces methane, which is a potent greenhouse gas, dozens of times more damaging than CO2. This is why controlling methane emissions from animals is key in the fight against global warming, and capturing methane for natural gas might be a perfect 2-for-1 solution to that problem. (Of course, encouraging less meat-eating might be a more obvious and easy solution to this problem, but of course, since it seems impossible to wean Americans off hamburgers, this scheme might just be the next greatest thing)
The CA Poo Power project is located in the Vintage Dairy Farm in Riverdale, CA and is the brainchild of David Albers, head of BioEnergy Solutions, who we previously featured in his attempts to turn poop into green. The project aims to turn the effluent of 5000 cows, effectively a 33 feet deep, 5 football field-sized vat, into natural gas. The lagoon is naturally covered to prevent the manure from escaping, and lined in plastic to stop the manure from seeping to the ground water.
At the moment, this rather huge installation is able to power approximately 1,200 house per day. Not a large number, but then, you if you consider that there are 2,000,000 cows in California alone, you can certainly start smelling the possibilities.