Poop power production poised to pick up

Following a study that was recently released from the University of Texas at Austin, which said livestock manure could be used to satisfy up to 3 per cent of U.S. electricity demand, I decided to zero in on the potential for Canada, and specifically Ontario. I learned that the potential was even higher in Ontario, but also learned — sadly — that the province produces less than half a megawatt from livestock manure using gas from anaerobic digester systems. This, despite the existence of a program that for the past two years has offered a premium of 11 cents per kilowatt-hour for biogas-based power production. Apparently it’s not enough.

I’ve got a feature on this issue in today’s Toronto Star if you’d like to explore more fully.

Compare that to Germany, where more than 3,700 anaerobic digester systems produce about 800 megawatts, and the situation in Ontario stinks, to say the least. Some say by 2015 Germany will have 20,000 digesters producing 4,000 megawatts. So what’s the holdup in Ontario? Red tape. Insufficient incentives. Lack of awareness or appreciation of the benefits of digester technology, which not only creates renewable power but also kills pathogens in manure that can foul up water systems. It also replaces methane emissions with carbon emissions — a 21-to1 reduction in the carbon-trading world.

Now, the rules will be under review later this year, but the Ontario Power Authority is making no guarantee that incentives will increase. That said, there’s a general sense that the red tape needs to come down. Whether Ontario — or Canada, or the United States for that matter — can realize the full potential of animal poop in power production, we’ll likely have to wait a few years to see.

3 thoughts on “Poop power production poised to pick up”

  1. LOL! Such is Austin, my home- right on the edge of new technologies- home to Heliovolt, Actacell, EESTOR- and now Bovine Poop Power! I guess that’s what we get for having a Longhorn as our mascot;-) On a more serious note, this is good news- especially in light of the UN report of the widespread effects of livestock, er, emissions. I also recall catching a show on the Science Channel about 3 guys traveling across the US in a bio-fueled bus- one of their stops was a dairy farm who collected the cow poop and generated their own electricity- another side benefit was that the ‘poop’ left over after extracting the gases, was an odorless, clean manure that could still be used for fertilizer. Of course, this type of poop collection seems easier for a dair farm, where the cows are more often than not in a controlled area- I am not sure the how much the economics of this type of project would be affected by having to collect manure from free-ranging beef cattle.

  2. Ah! Found it- it was an episode of ‘Invention Nation’ on the Science Channel showing a farm in Illinois converting cow manure to electricity- this portion of the show, which shows the process very well is at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ytU8AJwHKO0

    Unfortunately, the show did talk talk about the economics of it- start-up costs, maintenance costs, etc- but still, very informative!

  3. One more link to an article that talks a bit more of the economics and benefits of this project: http://www.illinoislivestock.org/articles/FA200610_Neighbor.php

    It pegged the start-up cost at $1,000,000 for a facility that produces enough electricity to power 120 homes- though half of this goes to power the farm’s activities- still, even at a cost of 1 Mil, the payback seems like it would occur in just a few years- and this does not even take into account the cost savings from a better environment around the farm. Seems like this would be a no-brainer for other farms.

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