Desert Hills Dairy of Nevada has joined with Carbon Bank Ireland, an emerging leader in cap-and-trade carbon emissions markets, to build the state’s first biogas facility to convert cow manure into electricity. Along with producing enough sustainable methane to power itself and other equipment at the second largest dairy in Nevada, the high tech digester will produce liquid fertilizer and mulch.
Carbon Bank Ireland specializes in harvesting certified emissions credits from sustainable energy projects, which can be traded in the European carbon markets. While some pundits claim that cap-and-trade is “socialism on a grand scale” (whatever that is), that doesn’t appear to bother the cows. It also doesn’t appear to bother Nevada, which sees a lot of green in its future. As reported by Nevada Appeal writer Kirk Caraway, interest in the state’s rich solar, wind and geothermal resources is surging, and it is becoming a desirable location for start-ups that are developing sustainable projects such as the capture of waste heat and the development of hi tech batteries. Green jobs, anyone?
Desert Hills Dairy, Cow Manure, and Methane
The Desert Hills Dairy biodigester is a perfect illustration of the opportunities for economic growth that green technology can create, even in traditional enterprises such as raising cows. Caraway notes that the dairy planned to expand, but doubling its size would mean doubling the amount of manure to dispose of. Aside from the environmental issues involved, the rising cost of conventional waste disposal could mean diminishing returns and less incentive to expand.
Biodigesters and Sustainable Power
The new biogas digester turns the disposal equation on its head, and effectively removes the waste disposal issue as a roadblock to expansion. Instead of a liability, the waste becomes an asset. The digester provides enough energy to run itself as well as other operations on site, and it can produce excess energy that can be sold to the grid. The fertilizer and mulch byproducts add another layer of benefits to this cost effective solution whether they are used on site or sold for off site use. GHD, Inc. of Wisconson, the manufacturer of Desert Hills’s new biodigester, uses a patented two-stage system designed to run automatically, requiring no specialized high-tech skills to operate. That makes it ideal for remote locations and low-tech operations such as dairy farms, so it’s little wonder that GHD is one of the leading sources of cow manure digesters in the U.S.
The Future of Cow Manure and Sustainable Energy
Biodigesters are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to treating cow manure as a sustainable resource. In California, Hilarides Dairy is running two of its 18-wheel tankers on methane biogas from cow manure, the State Fair will feature a kiddie train powered by manure biogas, and legendary Segway inventor Dean Kamen’s high tech Slingshot water filter can use cow manure to power its vapor compression distillation system.
Image: moneydick on flickr.com.
Tina Casey specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. You can also follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.