We’ve all heard the familiar saying, ‘Milk: It does a body good.’ Well, there’s something else from a cow that’s doing the farmers and people of Vermont good: manure.
The people of Vermont have discovered a renewable energy source that is reliable, easy to acquire and friendly to the environment.
Through the use of new technologies that can capture methane gas in cow manure to generate electricity, these ‘Cow Power Farms‘ are quickly becoming the talk of the town.
Right now these farms in Vermont all have over 500 cows to help with the cow power process.
The farms are:
- Blue Spruce Farm in Bridport ‘ in 2006 produced 1.3 million kWh of electricity
- Green Mountain Dairy Farm in Sheldon ‘estimated to produce 1,828,000 kWh of electricity a year
- Montagne Farm in St. Albans – expected to produce 1.4 million kWh of electricity a year
- Newmont Farms in Fairlee – estimated to produce about 1.4 million kWh of electricity a year
- Pleasant Valley Farm in Richford – expected to produce 3.5 million kWh of electricity a year
These farms get a portion of the money from customers to help fund the cow power process and future renewable energy developments.
How Does Cow Power Work?
There’s a nice cartoon that illustrates how the cow power is created. Here are the steps summarized:
- Cows are housed in free-stall barns to easily collect waste
- The manure is pumped into a digester that captures the methane, and this gas is used to fuel the generator and to heat the milk house
- The solids and liquids are separated and bacteria is destroyed
- Solids replace sawdust for bedding and composting
- Liquids (which are odorless) are spread in the field as fertilizer
You can see the full process here.
The use of manure to generate electricity has become so popular that in an article in CNNMoney.com, the Long Trail Brewing Company has signed a contract to become the largest commercial customer of Cow Power.
If the whole idea of Cow Power wasn’t genius enough, you can even buy a t-shirt with a clever slogan on it to support the program:
Since one cow’s waste can power enough energy to light two 100-watt light bulbs for 24 hours, and excess waste can be used for commercial farming, this seems like a win-win deal for the farmers and citizens in Vermont.