Our meta-story is from the origin of the technology improvements that favor poo power. It's Denmark...again. The hint was found in a quote: "Environmental Power is phasing out an older business in burning waste coal to focus on its Microgy subsidiary, which uses a technology that it licensed from Xergi, a Danish company". Vestas, the Danish wind turbine manufacturer that brought economically viable modern turbines to the US had its industrial roots in the making of farm equipment. Makes us wonder what else those Danes have up their manure covered sleeves?
At first glance, the paradox posed by this technology is that the economics of installing manure digesters favor large-scale industrial farms. Will the emergence of manure-to electricity plants drive family-run organic farms out of business? Not necessarily. Organic farmers put their manure back into the soil. Soil management is the crux of sustainability for this technology. The cost of petroleum based fertilizer is the corollary driver.
Finally, we'd like to point to a historic irony, stemming from this quote in the article: ""We're not taking any risk, the reduction in odors is huge, and we're powering 600 homes with 900 cows," he said. "You've got to admit, that's pretty efficient."" The manure of three cows power a home. That's an interesting ratio.
When dairying came to the US from colonial era Europe, it was from a tradition of two or three cows living in the stable under the home. Body heat from animal metabolism and from breakdown of manure kept the home warm as well. In that time, the tending of the cows and processing of milk, butter, and cheese was seen as 'women's work', integrated as it was into the home. The first obstacle, then, to the evolution of modern mega-dairies was to convince men that they could get involved in management of larger dairy herds, kept in separate facilities. With the present ascendancy of women-managed farms and the seeming reinvention of cow as energy source, what goes around truly has come around.