Picture yourself driving along the winding country roads in central Vermont, it is early fall, your windows are open and Joni Mitchell is gracing the airwaves with her soulful melodies. You are at one with the world, you take a deep breath, inhaling the crisp autumn air and then it hits you- the smell. At first it’s just a whiff, a hint of something sour. In no time you’re rolling up your window as full on nausea engulfs you. Twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, fifty two weeks a year there is one certainty: cow shit. The more tasteful term is manure, but for all of those in the world who live in areas with more bovine citizens than human ones, the smell merits no such enlightened vocabulary. Incredibly, some innovative minds have begun putting bad smells to good use. Cow power is a new undertaking of Central Vermont Public Service (CVPS) and has been gaining popularity as a way to create electricity and supplemental incomes for dairy farmers in Vermont. There are methane digestion initiatives similar to the one in Vermont being instituted all over the country. The adaptability of the methane digestion process makes methane digestion a viable option for producing electricity with low environmental impacts.
Methane digestion is not a new technology; it was first implemented in India in 1859 and has recently begun to gain popularity among farmers in the US due to rising energy costs but still remains a largely unknown energy source (Gardner 2006). The science behind creating electricity from cow manure takes advantage of the natural gasses which are produced by the digestion of manure by bacteria. First the manure is collected (usually by a mechanical floor scrapp...
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Methane digestion is one of the only methods of energy production that utilizes the waste of human activities. It appears to be an obvious solution to many problems. Using animal manure to power our lights and appliances reduces the output of concentrated amounts of waste into the environment, eliminates unpleasant odors and reduces the need for fossil fuels on farms-everyone wins. However, the financial stumbling block that has tripped up so many farmers must be surmounted in the future if methane digestion is to become a prevalent source of electricity. Perhaps as the strain on our available energy sources continues to intensify more unorthodox methods for energy production will become more worthy of government support. Methane digestion, with its unique advantages, is bound to be one of the most successful alternatives to current energy production.
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