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Manure-Powered Generators On The Rise 444

Sunkist writes "The San Francisco Chronicle has a report on Marin County rancher Albert Straus that, after 25 years of work, began using a generator powered by manure. While this type of 'power' has been in use for a while, recent legislation has made it more widespread. From the article, 'The Straus Farms' covered-lagoon methane generator, powered by methane billowing off a covered pool of decomposing bovine waste, is expected to save the operation between $5,000 and $6,000 per month in energy costs.' Let's hear it for poop!"
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Manure-Powered Generators On The Rise

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  • by PatrickThomson ( 712694 ) on Friday May 14, 2004 @11:18AM (#9151696)
  • by SYFer ( 617415 ) <syfer@[ ] ['syf' in gap]> on Friday May 14, 2004 @11:18AM (#9151697) Homepage
    So if vegetarianism were to become the norm and these maure-power setups become common, cows would no longer be slaughtered, but still they'd still be raised commercially. For their milk... n' shit.

    • Doubtful (Score:5, Interesting)

      by INeededALogin ( 771371 ) on Friday May 14, 2004 @11:32AM (#9151900) Journal
      cows would no longer be slaughtered, but still they'd still be raised commercially

      I see this as more of a way of recycling. Crap is a by-product of an animal using energy. The actual energy needed to produce that crap is immense. Think of the grass that has to grow and the nutrients placed into the soil, then what your body can't use is the crap. When it gets down to it... we would probably save money, and resources just growing tress on that land and burning those(skip the cow). The benefit to the current setup is that we can raise the cow, eat em, and then recycle the by-products.
      • by yintercept ( 517362 ) on Friday May 14, 2004 @11:42AM (#9152028) Homepage Journal
        You are probably right. I personally doubt that the amount of energy produced by a methane powered generating plant in a feed lot would equal the cost of the energy consumed by farmers raising crops and shipping crops to the feed lot. This is more of a way to minimize the loss of energy from our fuel dependent farm economy.
        • Another benefit is reducing the animal waste load on local water systems. With those huge factory farms, just dumping it in the river is not an option, and there's only so much you can spread on the fields before it ends up in the drinking water along with e-coli. (The leftovers from generating methane can still be used as fertilizer, but less hazardous than the .. raw .. stuff.)
        • depends (Score:5, Interesting)

          by zogger ( 617870 ) on Friday May 14, 2004 @12:48PM (#9152882) Homepage Journal
          it really just depends. One, you don't have to use manure, you can use a variety of any biomass that will anerobically digest, which is hmm, all of it. One idea I heard of was from jaque cousteau, his was to use kelp, because of it's incredibly fast growing nature and the make-up of kelp makes it ideal for digesting. It seems industrial hemp would be ideal, too, it's cellulose production per acre/year is amazing, and it doesn't require that much fertiliser, you could get by just plowing under 1/2 the plants every year for that, then re apply the slurry as well. If you could see in meat space how much quite useable burnable gas you get from even a small amount you'd see it's very practical and economic. The deal is, the big energy companies CAN'T send you a bill for it,because you can own it, so no way will this be pushed officially by the government or it's controllers, big industry, that much. They *dig* having you pay forever into their monopoly, both with cash and with mindshare. It's the same with solar, with wind generation, etc.

          Second,to get back to some farm savings, although the nitrogen level % remains the same in the manure and water slurry after digestion, it is in a more available form to plants than normal aerobic digestion or composting (farmers just shoot this stuff back on the fields now, with conveyor spreaders or flail spreaders). I have read it is as high as 600% better with anerobic digestion, so you get significant savings on fertilizer (which is a HUGE cost now and going up because artificial fertiliser is made from natural gas), which is what's done with the slurry after it has exhausted methane production potential. And last, it is "relatively" cheap to build these things,and they are incredibly scalable, there's a size and technique to fit any size operation, from joe water buffalo rice farmer on up. There are hundreds of thousands of them around the planet now,of various sizes,just not much in the US, so here it's stayed mostly "experimental",and they have to "study it", etc, that's all, any place else it's just normal, and sunlight is an excellent conversion tool for getting solar energy into various useful products. It's very productive sunlight is,a great energy conversion tool, especially with living plants, and it's the only practical fusion generator we have, and it's "free and open source", the government or industry can't charge you for it directly. They will play act at supporting it, that's about it, it doesn't lend itself to monopoly control, so they spread a lot of economic FUD around it.

          Remember, farming has always been profitable and useful,well, from obvious reasons, food is kinda nice, even before modern techniques were invented, so it's quite do-able. Look at giant forests, grow all on their own, no high tech anything needed for them to grow, just water, dirt, sunlight, air, done. They are just huge biological manufacturing plants, quite sophisticated really, and that's all any farm is, a biological factory, and there's various ways to cut costs and remain profitable, ONCE you as joe big farmer STOP being brainwashed by monsanto and the energy companies and the equipment companies and the banks. You have to break that mindset of "dependence" first before you can wrap your brane around "how to do it" better. That first step is just too much for most people to get over. It's not really their fault, it's how they were taught, and what the "approved" techniques are as taught at ag colleges and in industry orgs. There are VERY few independent farmers around, the vast majority are really just coporate sub contractors and have to follow these corporation rules. The guy I work for owns three large farms, he is controlled by his suppliers and marketing org down to an obscene picky little level like you wouldn't believe on how to run his farm, or he can't market, and that's the biggest problems farmers have now, and they get trapped into it, go along, or go broke. Once in and in debt, they are trapped, it's almost like a form of serfdom on a large scale. It's a hard
          • Re:depends (Score:4, Interesting)

            by yintercept ( 517362 ) on Friday May 14, 2004 @02:06PM (#9154152) Homepage Journal

            Great info. The point of my post was precisely that big business has corralled the American farming industry into extremely consumptive and wasteful practices. As you mentioned, we are using fertilizers made from natural gas. The big feed lot business plan has farmers expending a great deal of energy to harvest and move materials to the feed lots. Bio mass plants on the tail end of this ineffiencient structure simply reduces the amount of energy lost through the process.

            For biomass to become a net producer of energy, we need to first get around the energy wasting processes of the big business agriculture.

            Farmers using biomass generators is a completely different situation.

            The deal is, the big energy companies CAN'T send you a bill for it,because you can own it...

            I had to read this twice. This is not a failure of the free market...but a failure of big business and politics. An individual owning an asset that produces energy is the type of thing that exists in free markets. The blocks big oil and utilities put to small operations like this are anti-market forces.

            he declined, it was just "too hippy" for him.

            On the up side, the natural food market is strong. Large sections of the farming market are becoming hippy. In some cases there is big money in natural produces...and more of the money in natural foods gets to the farmer. There is growing support for the use of renewable the mindset of the farming community is apt to change.

            it's "free and open source", the government or industry can't charge you for it directly.

            In part this is backward thinking caused by seeing biomass only from the position of a consumer. A farmer that produces energy from biomass could consume it...or they could sell it. For that matter, I think there is more future in developing a market for biomass energy than simply as a way to cut costs.

            • I have a friend of mine, Roy at Four Winds Energy [],(great guy and company, shameless plug for him there) who's doing a bang up business with solar and wind, and a large part of it now is installing water pumping stations for farmers livestock using the alternatives. Some of them are finally coming around, as are hundreds of thousands of non farmers, just folks who can see beyond the FUD and just go "do it" with the alternatives. I've said this before but I'll repeat it. Alternatives WILL get better in the f
      • Re:Doubtful (Score:3, Insightful)

        by strictnein ( 318940 ) *
        According to the crazied fools over at People Eat Tasty Animals:

        U.S. livestock alone consume about one-third of the world's total grain harvest, as well as more than 70 percent of the grain grown in the United States.

        I have heard similar numbers elsewhere (although not as high as 70%). PETA is, of course, one of the growing numbers of groups that feel that making up facts and figures *cough*MADD*cough* is ok, since what they're doing is "good".

        Farmers have also been doing this in Minnesota recently (th
        • Re:Doubtful (Score:5, Insightful)

          by strictnein ( 318940 ) * <strictfoo-slashdot@yahoo. c o m> on Friday May 14, 2004 @11:58AM (#9152248) Homepage Journal
          A good example of made up PETA BS:

          For example, a cow grazing on one acre of land produces enough meat to sustain a person two and a half months; soybeans grown on that same acre would nourish a person for seven years.

          And the point is? Growing those soybeans for food using current methods requires anywhere between 12-18 times the energy that you receive from the food, including lots of nasty things like fossil fuels and fertilizer! OH NO THE PLANET IS GOING TO DIE! 7 years of energy for a human is ~ 7yr * 365days/yr * 2000kcal / day = ~ 5.1 million kCal. The EVIL TOXIC energy needed to create that food: ~61 million kCal - ~92 million kCal!

          Having a cow graze that same acre of land requires no power as the energy in the grass it is eating is from the sun. No nasty chemicals, no icky big tractors. So, 2 1/2 months of food = 375000 kCal. To produce this food required only about 375000 kCal of FRESH HAPPY SUN energy. And they included only meat as a by-product of the cow. I can get milk too.

          So, clearly in this setup (obviously things are different in real life, but I'm just going with what the super-smart folk at PETA tell me), the cow is the better alternative. I can eat its meat, drink its milk (if it's a female), wear its skin, and create power from its shit! All I need to make it through the year is about 4-5 cows and 4-5 acres of grass land. And since I'm using the shit to make power, I'm not relying on the nasty nuclear or dirty coal based energy! Three cheers for Mother Earth! Thanks for making it so clear PETA! If I love my planet, I should raise cows and eat meat!
      • Since cattle need to drink water, they add to the load on fresh water demands. Cattle consume from 1 (for a 1 month old) to many gallons (for a lactating cow) per day. Ref: Water intake and quality for cattle []
      • by Spamalamadingdong ( 323207 ) on Friday May 14, 2004 @12:37PM (#9152719) Homepage Journal
        Think of the grass that has to grow and the nutrients placed into the soil, then what your body can't use is the crap. When it gets down to it... we would probably save money, and resources just growing tress on that land and burning those(skip the cow).
        Your logic assumes that the trees are equally efficient in converting sunlight, water etc. to combustible biomass as grass is. Given that the candidates for biomass crops for feeding powerplants are typically not trees but grasses such as switchgrass, I strongly suspect that you are wrong there.

        Replacing the cow might have its features, though. The cow is actually the indirect consumer of grass; the grass is first consumed by bacteria which convert its cellulose and other things to simpler carbohydrates and proteins (like growing mushrooms on straw) and then the cow digests the results. There isn't anything standing in the way of us growing such bacteria in vats rather than in cows and then feeding the results to e.g. fish, getting closer to the 2:1 feed/meat ratio than the cow's 8:1.

    • For that to work, you would need immortal cows.

    • As long as your not a vegan (I'm not) which will not even drink milk. What a great way to live.
    • So if vegetarianism were to become the norm and these maure-power setups become common, cows would no longer be slaughtered, but still they'd still be raised commercially. For their milk... n' shit.

      If we were trully vegetarian we would likely produce our fuel from fruits and vegetables, like Brazil does with their sugar beet. I'd have to look at see what would be more efficent, producing methane from animal waste or producing alcohol from a crop. I can see some advantages to reclaimed engery from a was
  • by Doesn't_Comment_Code ( 692510 ) on Friday May 14, 2004 @11:19AM (#9151712)
    ...but i'll take a shitload of fuel to power a city.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      I think a variety of energy-producing methods is a great first step towards lessening oil dependency. It doesn't have to be one size fits all: for some areas, solar would work well, others, wind or thermal. Less chance for monopoly that way as well. Then, we could use the oil that was still around for the situations that truly required it. Now if we could just get the prices down for the equipment it takes to use alternative sources....
      • Now if we could just get the prices down for the equipment it takes to use alternative sources....

        There's a limit to how far you can go with this. Full exploitation will bring economies of scale in the production of equipment and let you run down the experience curve, but with any diffuse energy source you are going to need substantially more equipment to gather and use it than you would with more concentrated energy sources. Barring some technological breakthrough which only applies to the "alternative"

    • Just come to Washington DC. We got bullshit all over this town.
  • Tina Turner (Score:5, Funny)

    by chaffed ( 672859 ) on Friday May 14, 2004 @11:19AM (#9151716) Homepage
    That's great and all but what does Tina Turner have to say about it?
    • That's great and all but what does Tina Turner have to say about it?

      And in related news: Tina Turner sues poop power generator makers for patent infringement; claims prior art.

      • Re:Tina Turner (Score:2, Insightful)

        by stratjakt ( 596332 )
        Tina Turner controlled Bartertown, Master Blaster was in charge of the underground.

        Btw mods, grandparent is not a troll. If you haven't seen the Mad Max films you have no business moderating on a forum for geeks.

      • See this [] description (e.g.) for an example of even earlier prior art.
        (From The Good Life, aka Good Neighbors in the USA.)
    • Tina Turner says:
      MASTER BLASTER runs barter town!!!

      On a side note why is the parent a troll? Obviously not a madmax fan...
    • I believe in the film ( the last Mad Max ) pig shit, not cow shit was used. Steve
  • by mgs1000 ( 583340 ) on Friday May 14, 2004 @11:21AM (#9151732) Journal
    ..and it arrives at the perfect time, the production of bullshit is at an all-time high!
  • by stratjakt ( 596332 ) on Friday May 14, 2004 @11:21AM (#9151744) Journal
    This little midget riding a huge musclebound retarded guy challenged me to Thunderdome!

  • Cows say... (Score:5, Funny)

    by SoTuA ( 683507 ) on Friday May 14, 2004 @11:22AM (#9151756)
    ...that's a great energy source... for me to POOP ON!

    Oh wait... (or is it "moo wait..."?)

  • I guess I'll have to hurry to put those machine gun mount points in my car
  • to the "shit's going to hit the fan"...
  • The CO2 produced. Without forrest like we used to have CO2 buildup will not slow down. The need to develope better, safer Nuclear Energy.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 14, 2004 @11:26AM (#9151813)
      That's greenpeace FUD, really. There's not nearly as much CO2 staying in the atmosphere as there should be, and noone knows why not. The best theories are that the oceans (which are most of the planet) sink orders of magnitude more CO2 than all the land-based plants.
    • by Doesn't_Comment_Code ( 692510 ) on Friday May 14, 2004 @11:32AM (#9151893)
      Without forrest like we used to have...

      Many forests around the world have been significantly depleted, but the myth of deforestation in the U.S. is just that, a myth. There hasn't been a significant decrease in plantlife except in very urban areas, like New York.

      Also, on a world wide scale, much of the plantlife that handles the CO2 issue is in the ocean. I don't remember the number, but something like 70% of the CO2 converting plants live in the ocean. I think that's the bigger issue.
      • by stratjakt ( 596332 ) on Friday May 14, 2004 @11:40AM (#9151998) Journal
        I read recently that there's enough old growth forest in the US to make a band as wide as texas from NY to Seattle.

        Much of it is in undesirable areas (mountains etc) or protected parks so it's pretty much safe.
      • by cens0r ( 655208 ) on Friday May 14, 2004 @12:52PM (#9152975) Homepage
        Come to washington some time and gander all the mountains that have been clear cut. We still have a lot of forests left, and they do try to replant them, but that's not always really effective. What I hate is how they leave a narrow strip of trees near the interstates and highways to give the impression of the forrest.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      But wouldn't this be 'carbon neutral'?

      The cows eat hay and grain which are seasonal/renewable resources? en v_aq.htm
    • Ahh, just dump some iron in the ocean. A nice algae bloom will take care of that CO2.
    • Ah, but more carbon dioxide encourages the growth of forests and plankton. Keep in mind that the US east of the Mississippi was twice as forested in 1990 as it was in 1900. That's the most heavily populated area of the country, during a time of tremendous population growth and blow-out urban sprawl.

      Also, more plankton leads to more krill leads to more whales. Greenpeace is against this? Besides, all our energy comes from either the sun or radioactive decay. Ultimately, it's all nuclear.

    • by oneiros27 ( 46144 ) on Friday May 14, 2004 @11:38AM (#9151972) Homepage
      They're getting energy from what was considered to be a waste product. If they weren't doing this, we would have to make larger nuclear power plants, or whatever other form of energy product you feel is acceptable for the environment.

      This is a win-win situation, for those involved -- they de-water the waste, compact the waste for easier removal, and get energy back in the process to help offset the operational costs for the process.

      For those who didn't take sewage treatment classes in college, there are four main types of setting -- type 1 is for things that accelerate from gravity (sticks, rocks, etc), type 2 is things that floculate (clump together as they're falling), type 3 and 4 are not typically done in a water treatment plant as they don't happen quickly enough. So, what they do is syphon off the 'mostly' clean water at the top, and dump the sludge at the bottom... but the sludge at the bottom is still mostly water, which is heavy, and bulky. Depending on the area, they'll spread it out to dry in the sun, or use anaerobic digestion (such as in the bottom of a pond), to get it to compress further.

      And let's not forget that composted manure makes great fertilizer, which the farmer might otherwise be buying for the plants that go into feeding the cow. It's all just an example of a nice little ecosystem.
      • by TamMan2000 ( 578899 ) on Friday May 14, 2004 @12:03PM (#9152305) Journal
        The article talks about using a covered lagoon full of shit to collect the methane as the shit breaks down. The article said a well fed cow craps ~120 lbs/day.

        How does the shit get to the lagoon?

        At 120lbs/day/cow, moving that shit around could require a lot of energy. Are they only using the shit from the barn? Is there someone riding the range looking for shit? Are the cows wearing shit bags like horses in the city do? Are they doing anything to catch the cow farts (100-200 liters/day/cow according to the article)?

        Well, I guess it was more than one question...
    • Nuclear energy is far from being able to be made safe in the immediate future.

      There are other alternative forms of energy.

    • No. The problem of global warming is the release of fossilized CO2 - that is, CO2 which has been sequestered in the form of oil and coal for so long that it is no longer part of the balance of the ecosystem. The release of CO2 from organic matter, such as wood and manure, has no effect on this balance because the carbon in it was sequestered from the ecosystem very recently. In other words, CO2 from shit is part of the carbon cycle.
  • Holy cow! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DR SoB ( 749180 ) on Friday May 14, 2004 @11:23AM (#9151771) Journal
    So what's the waste generated from this? Obviously CO2, but what else? Is it considered "clean" energy? Is used poop as good at fertilizing as new poop? Would it work with human poop? Can I build a small version myself? Are their poop bylaws? (I can cover my lawn with poop after all..). And most importantly, does it run Linux??
    • Re:Holy cow! (Score:3, Informative)

      by Bagheera ( 71311 )
      So what's the waste generated from this?

      CO2, waste heat, and "digested" solids - which are still effective as fertilizer (though not as rich).

      Is it considered "clean" energy?

      Cleaner than oil-fired plants, but there is still the CO2 output.

      Is used poop as good at fertilizing as new poop?

      Depends on the remaining nutrient levels, but it is still usable, yes.

      Would it work with human poop? Can I build a small version myself? Are their poop bylaws?

      Yes, yes, and yes. There are rural communities in u
  • by Ingolfke ( 515826 ) on Friday May 14, 2004 @11:24AM (#9151785) Journal
    I don't know if I believe this article... something smells kind of funny about it.

  • ... such as the output of Redmond?
  • Liquid Manure (Score:5, Interesting)

    by stoolpigeon ( 454276 ) <bittercode@gmail> on Friday May 14, 2004 @11:25AM (#9151798) Homepage Journal
    When I was a kid we would visit my Uncle's dairy farm. Even with him using a lot of manure to fertilize his fields - getting rid of it all was still an issue. They went to a system where they processed it to liquid and it went into a big liquid manure pond. I can remember watching their dog- walking around on the 'crust' that formed on the top of it. Every so often his legs would slip through. That was a nasty dog.

    Eventually my Uncle's family farm went under and was auctioned off. I wonder if this kind of thing would have been enough to keep him in business? He now works for a big giant 'corporate' farm. Truth be told- from a purely economic perspective he is better off. He gets regular vacation (never had that with his own farm) and makes o.k. money.

  • by Roadkills-R-Us ( 122219 ) on Friday May 14, 2004 @11:25AM (#9151806) Homepage
    a generator I could run off my septic tank to power my house. But my whole family doesn't produce as much poop as one cow. Although when we have TexMex, we rival cows in overall methane production. But who wants to carry a mini-generator attached to their butt?
  • by Doesn't_Comment_Code ( 692510 ) on Friday May 14, 2004 @11:26AM (#9151808)
    This ought to help the unemployment rate, as there will be a new employment opportunities in the poop-picking-up field. Someone has got to walk around the field collecting this stuff if they're going to burn it, after all. What a great opportunity! Virtually no training or education requited. If you walk a dob in the city, you are already a seasoned professional, and could quickly rise to management level.

    I also see a new market opening for human droppings. Why limit ourselves to animal manure? People donate plasma for a pocketful of money don't they? Why not have pay toilets pay us?!

    All of this is good news for out-of-work and soon-to-be-out-of-work programmers! ... until they start shipping in poop from India.
    • by Alan Hicks ( 660661 ) on Friday May 14, 2004 @11:43AM (#9152050) Homepage
      This ought to help the unemployment rate, as there will be a new employment opportunities in the poop-picking-up field.

      I know you're just trying to be funny, but I thought I'd point out there's a reason why this is being done for dairy cows instead of beef cattle. Dairy cows tend to shit in a barn while they're being milked. This creates a lot of waste in a small area, that we typically just hoss out the back. Of course, there's no reason you couldn't hoss it into a container, and then dump that somewhere else where it could be better used.

  • by erick99 ( 743982 ) * <> on Friday May 14, 2004 @11:26AM (#9151820)
    I'm a big fan of "alternative energy." More for the technology and gee-whiz factor thenenvironmentalism I suppose. Anyway, this is a very cool project. Here are the parts of the article that I found particularly interesting:

    ..switched on a 75- kilowatt generator.

    On the panel, an electricity meter began running backward, indicating that power originating from a nearby poop-filled lagoon near the town of Marshall was feeding into PG&E's electric power grid. expected to save the operation between $5,000 and $6,000 per month in energy costs.

    A well-fed dairy cow produces 120 pounds of manure every day, or 40,000 pounds per year per animal.

    ..a single cow can emit 100 to 200 liters of methane per day.

    These cows are pooping money!

    Happy Trails!


  • by nanojath ( 265940 ) on Friday May 14, 2004 @11:27AM (#9151830) Homepage Journal
    Manure-Powered Generators On The Rise

    Is "generator" really an accurate name for political campaigns?
  • The folks who are promoting this energy source are just plain full of shit. =)
  • by Lord Byron II ( 671689 ) on Friday May 14, 2004 @11:30AM (#9151870)
    Our power company, SRP, does a similar thing with landfills. After the landfill is full, they tarp it and collect the methane in order to generate electricity. Then, a few years later when the methane generation slows down enough they remove the power generation equipment and build a public park on top. Three uses for one piece of land is not a bad idea at all.
  • Popular in India (Score:5, Informative)

    by G4from128k ( 686170 ) on Friday May 14, 2004 @11:31AM (#9151873)
    In India, they call them gobar gas [] plants (more details in a 1971 Mother Earth New article []). As long as one keeps the 30:1 carbon/nitrogen ratio, they can consume other organic waste too (grass clippings, urine, food waste, etc.). The only problem with them is that they tend to create hydrogen sulfide that makes the gas highly corrisive to iron equipment (some people use a filter of steel wool to remove the H2S).
  • Insert standard government, SCO, Hollywood, and pop music jokes here.
  • Economics (Score:2, Informative)

    by jamesl ( 106902 )
    This maakes no more economic sense the last "power from poop" story: 9/182320 6
  • by nanojath ( 265940 ) on Friday May 14, 2004 @11:31AM (#9151890) Homepage Journal
    On a more serious note, it sounds like a win-win. If waste-lagoons are being covered and methane tapped for energy, it stands to reason that it will reduce both potentially global-warming inducing methane releases into the atmosphere (yes, it will be released as CO or CO2 emissions eventually from combustion, but by displacing other fuels it will be a net win, and please, let's not have the conversation about whether global warming is real or not today) and reduce noxious emissions, a win for the neighbors of big farming facilities.
  • by Eagle5596 ( 575899 ) <slashUser.5596@org> on Friday May 14, 2004 @11:32AM (#9151892)
    Now they can put all that bull shit which they pile on to their assignments to good use! Finally, a use for humanities majors other than staffing McDonalds!
  • I wonder how bad it smells? I'm sure I'd put up with it for saving 5 grand a month though.

    Poop is good, that is all.
  • Useful links.... (Score:2, Informative)

    by Scrab ( 573004 ) -electricity.htm ews/c3Views200309.pdf ap_gas_45671.asp owpower.jhtml
  • Chinese farmers have used pig manure to produce methane for cooking gas for a long time. Not a universal practice, but it has been done. Of course, when you are living from hand to mouth, you get innovative in order to survive, hence the widespread use of human feces as "nightsoil" for fertilization, too. And of course on the plains "buffalo chips" have served as fuel for fires for hundreds of years.
  • by Rui del-Negro ( 531098 ) on Friday May 14, 2004 @11:39AM (#9151975) Homepage
    ...a beowulf cluster of these? Pew!
  • by HogGeek ( 456673 ) on Friday May 14, 2004 @11:41AM (#9152024)
    ... with the following statement:

    "With net metering, small producers like Straus can reduce or erase their energy bills but cannot be paid for pumping excess energy into the grid. Net metering has been available to owners of home solar systems for several years."

    Why do we allow laws that strip us of potential income, and benefit companies like PG&E?

    • by sampson7 ( 536545 ) on Friday May 14, 2004 @01:39PM (#9153681)
      Regarding Net Metering, you asked "Why do we allow laws that strip us of potential income, and benefit companies like PG&E?"

      Well, it's actually a bit more complicated than all that. One of the major problems with building a new generator is getting that generator to play nice with the existing transmission/distribution grid. This business of connecting the generator with the grid is called "interconnection." It's not an easy thing to interconnect a generator, and hooking up new green power technologies is especially troublesome. (Wind is the most difficult, with solar being the easiest.)

      The federal government has been working on creating new standardized rules for interconnection of small (read: green) generators, but it's an incredibly complicated process [] that's taking years to complete and isn't even done yet.

      So, what does all this have to do with Net Metering, you ask? Well everything.

      Net Metering is a state jurisdictional program (meaning each state has its own rules) that avoids the whole interconnection process. While you are still hooking up with the grid, the power flows involved in a Net Metering program are so small in comparison that the process is much quicker and much, much cheaper.

      The deal is however, that you cannot export (meaning feed energy into the grid) more power than you consume over the course of the billing period (usually a month).

      Take a photovoltaic system - during the day a well built system (and we're not talking people who are entirely off the grid here) may both supply the energy needs of your house and produce some extra energy. That energy is sent out to the grid. Your electric meter essentially runs backwards for that period of time. Then, at night, you resume taking energy from the grid to run your house. At that point your meter is running forward and your bill is increasing. Say over the course of a month you take 1000 kw of electricity of the grid at 8 cents / kw. Usually your bill would be $80. But, over the course of that same month say you pumped 100 kw of energy back into the grid (for a net consumption of 900 kw) - you would receive an $8 credit off of your bill.

      Now take the example of Farmer Brown who wants to turn shit into gold (that's the phrase the brochures use - "shit into gold"). Say he (through whatever means) puts 10,000 kw (or 10 MW) onto the system - all of a sudden he likely no longer qualifies for a net metering program and has to take the trouble of actually entering into an interconnection agreement and conducting studies to make sure he's not going to fry some lineman somewhere further down the grid (or more likely, simply overload the local lines and fry a small portion of the grid). Sure, he'd love to use net metering - the utility is required to buy whatever power he produces, the price is set at the retail price for electricity, the price of interconnection is cheap, but he's no longer eligible. So he has to go through the interconnection process, find buyers to buy his energy at wholesale (either by himself, or more likely through what are called "Aggregators"), and he's basically in the energy business with all the regulations and resonsibilities that entails.

      But don't feel too sorry for Farmer Brown -- turns out that one of the major expenses in running a dairy farm (who knew) is electricity! Most spend thousands and thousands of dollars on their electric bill every month - so to the extent they can offset even a portion of that through net metering, that there shit really is golden!
  • Great news! (Score:3, Funny)

    by Rumagent ( 86695 ) on Friday May 14, 2004 @11:42AM (#9152030)
    So, basically it runs on bullshit? Looks like SCO may have a business model after all...
  • How to make a generator that runs of decompossing SPAM?.

    I could take over from 3 mile island here!

  • Old news! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Sarojin ( 446404 )
    Collecting methane at sewer plants and from city dumps is being done on a large scale at over 200 US municipalities. It works quite well.

    World wide there are literally hundreds of thousands of them (methane digesters using arobic digestion), most of them being single family sized units where the collected gas is burned in small cookers and for lighting.

    I built a digester in the mid 70's, was EXTEREMELY easy to make. I worked on a large dairy then, despite running the digester for all summer and collecting
  • That manure is more valuable as crop fertilizer than as energy. But then all of you city folks start whining about the aroma of properly fertilized fields. Bah, you should be out with me on the tractor when I actually spread the stuff: now that's stinky.
  • The very idea of using manure as a fuel source for a powerplant is an old one indeed.

    Indeed, many developing countries have built small powerplants fuelled by what's known as biomass (e.g., manure and crop waste) at least since the 1970's. I believe that India was among the first countries to do this on a large scale.
  • by Aqua OS X ( 458522 ) on Friday May 14, 2004 @11:54AM (#9152206)
    This is yet another reason why we have the "Sonoma Aroma" in Marin / Sonoma County.

    You'd think the Sonoma Aroma would smell like wine and vineyards. Nope. It smells like shit.... especially in the summer. Nothing beats endless acres of giant turd piles baking, up wind, in 95 degree temperatures.

    If you've ever wondered what it's like to live inside of a fart... move here.

  • by tbmaddux ( 145207 ) * on Friday May 14, 2004 @11:59AM (#9152250) Homepage Journal
    See the Green-E [] website. Many landfills already extract their methane emissions. [] This is good even from a global-warming perspective, as methane [] is also a greenhouse gas. [] Finally, the EPA has tips on reducing methane emissions from livestock themselves, [] as opposed to their turds.
  • by operagost ( 62405 ) on Friday May 14, 2004 @12:02PM (#9152288) Homepage Journal
    This naturally occurring methane is a potent greenhouse gas, estimated to be 21 times as damaging to the ozone layer as carbon dioxide.
    Does this make any sense? I think the writer confused the greenhouse effect with the ozone layer. They're two totally different things! CO2 doesn't damage the ozone layer. It makes no sense.
  • by DivideX0 ( 177286 ) on Friday May 14, 2004 @12:33PM (#9152670)
    There are many pig lagoons in rural NC that are problematic due to the 'factory farms' that are being run by some large corporations. Seems like this might be a good alternative for them while sparing their neighbors from the smell and run-off of their operation.
  • by Jodka ( 520060 ) on Friday May 14, 2004 @12:44PM (#9152815)
    from the article:
    "This naturally occurring methane is a potent greenhouse gas, estimated to be 21 times as damaging to the ozone layer as carbon dioxide."

    Perhaps, given the topic, it is appropriate that that the article itself contain some bullshit. But that statement is excessive.

    Greenhouse gasses DO NOT deplete the ozone layer. A single egregious falsehood within the article undermines the credibility of the entire article; The author has demonstrated that she can not acurately report important facts, therefore all statements made in the article fall into question.
  • by melted ( 227442 ) on Friday May 14, 2004 @12:47PM (#9152864) Homepage
    This is shitty energy, who's gonna use it?
  • by dnamaners ( 770001 ) on Friday May 14, 2004 @01:33PM (#9153592) Journal
    This my not ever see wide spread use. decomposition ponds as described inthe article make lots of methane but much more pollution. manure may be natural but when it decomposes it makes massive amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus waste. in the case of pig manure they actually add phosphate to the diet of the animal. when decomposed and freed of the organic poop all these fertilizers readily leach into the ground water and if allowed into the surface run off. this process is of course accelerated buy the fact the the poop is in a liquid state. and most ponds are lined with clay or plastic. this is not a perfect barrier as clay leaks and plastic degrades. concrete would be better but is potentlay very costly. if the basin of the pond leaks it will allow the liquid fertilizers to pass into ground water it make it unusable as drinking water (nitrates in water can poison children quite easily). As surface run off this form of pollution has lead to massive eutrophication damage of rivers and lakes. eutrophication is when it turns water pea green with algae and then all that growth dies, decays and sucks up all the oxygen killing the water body.

    Another interesting bit is that at least in the USA many agricultural soils are quite rich in nutrients, such as phosphorus. in places like the midwest were dairy and pig farms are common manure is often liquefied and spread on fields. this is good fertilizer but in the case of pig manure it actually leads to phosphorus overload of the soils. so in Essence we don't need to do this but farmers need to get rid of the manure. this has lead to increased P contamination of water ways as well. id expect that their deodorized doncomposer sludge and water will be no different.

    these facts have been know for quite some time. already there is allot of legislation on the books or in the works against liquid manure holding ponds. The elimination of fertilizer runoff into the surface and ground waters is also heavily regulated. i suppose that if done right this can work but it is not as easy or as low cost as it may seem. maybe a centralized facility can buy manure and process it in large scale for methane and be safe and then market the byproducts as assayed fertilizer. but allot of small unlined pond operations randomly spreading sludge and runoff can easily lead to trouble.

    *something from "nothing" is great, except when "nothing" it is more than you can pay....
  • by ByteHog ( 247706 ) <> on Friday May 14, 2004 @02:04PM (#9154115) Homepage
    When life gives you poop, make poop juice.

"If it's not loud, it doesn't work!" -- Blank Reg, from "Max Headroom"