From chickens to cows to algae, energy generated from biomass is making a big impact worldwide. With last year's launch of the world's largest biomass plant in the Netherlands - running on chicken manure - another Dutch biomass energy project has now launched to provide 1,100 homes with heat converted from cow dung. Located in the northern rural region of De Zuidlanden (Leeuwarden), the plant will use dung from a local dairy farm that will be fermented anaerobically with grass and discarded food to produce biogas. Touted as an "experimental dairy farm", the manure will also power the plant's wind turbines. In addition, a special 5.5 kilometer-long biogas pipeline will be used to bring power to the local thermal plant's wind turbines.
Sponsored by Dutch energy company Essent, the Nij Bosma Zathe dairy farm is also the training and research center run by Wageningen University. The farm has already built two co-fermentation silos and there are plans to build a third one.
Delta, the same company that constructed the world's largest biomass plant that now provides 90,000 homes with chicken-poop-fuelled power, plans to purchase biogas from Nij Bosma Zathe for a local gas station that is already providing companies and individuals with bioethanol, biodiesel and biogas.
The experiment could open new possibilities for farmers who are interested in the profits of converting agricultural residues into energy. Currently, in addition to the differing composition of the biogas being produced, the wider Dutch gas network is not equipped to accept gas from the fermentation plant.
Popular perceptions about renewable energy from biomass sources needs to be transformed as well. "The citizens need to see where their electricity comes from. If they can't imagine, it is difficult to spread the message," says Dutch minister of agriculture Gerda Verburg. "Residents of the new district were the [1,100] houses will be built should be driving around and then say to each other: 'Look, that cow gives us warmth'".