Holy Cow! Manure-to-Biogas Could Generate 3 Percent of US Electric Demand

dairy cows staring at you photo

photo by Chris Austin

Biogas plants are nothing new in the world of alternative energy. We recently covered a biogas plant in Germany using corn as feedstock: Yay for greener energy, Nay for not using a food crop when there are better alternatives. However, new research coming out of the University of Texas, Austin shows that we may be ignoring the potential of one feedstock, which left to decompose is a powerful emitter of greenhouse gas emissions: Cow Manure.

GHG Emissions from Manure Decomposition Could be Avoided
The report, “Cow power: the energy and emissions benefits of converting manure to biogas", estimates that decomposing cow manure emits somewhere between 51 to 118 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, with the trend increasing over the last fifteen years. This is from approximately 1-billion tonnes of manure produced annually from the livestock industry in the United States alone.
The authors go on the calculate that, were this manure used to create biogas and used to generate electricity it could supply up to 3% of total U.S. electric demand. In the process, 99 million tonnes of net GHG emissions, 4% of the total from electricity, could be eliminated—provided that this biogas was used to replace coal-fired electric generation.

Great Regional Potential for Decentralized Power
Even if we all got on board with this idea today, it will be a bit before we see manure-to-biogas plants creating electricity on a widespread basis. However, at least in areas where there the livestock industry is dominant, there is the potential for a more decentralized power generation system to be developed.

via :: Science Daily
Apologies to Phil Rizzuto about the title of this post.
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