A good-sized cow can produce about 21 tons of manure a year. And a good biodigester could take that 21 tons and turn it into about 17,000 square meters of biogas — a methane-based renewable energy alternative to the natural gas we use to heat our homes and cook our food.
To put that in perspective, the average home uses about 16 square meters of natural gas per day. So it could be argued that one pooping cow could provide you with your needs, along with your neighbors on both sides.
Seems far fetched?
There are a myriad of problems in the way — particularly concerns about safety and pollution.
But the United States is among the many countries ramping up investments in biogas as a renewable source of energy. It’s particularly booming in underdeveloped countries where farmers and rural communities are producing biogas on a small scale from family-owned cows.
In the United States, major players, including Dominion Energy in Virginia, are teaming up with major meat companies like Smithfield Foods for pilot programs that have the potential to be a renewable source of energy and a considerable source of revenue.
The U.S. Department of Energy is also working with municipalities to harness biogas from landfills — by law landfills have to capture the methane and other gases leaked from decomposing waste. The idea is to convert that into energy than can be used, rather than burned off in a gas flares.
Before you ask your neighbors to pitch in for the cost of a cow, watch how the process works.
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