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America's dairy industry is looking at manure for energy

The renewable energy director of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy is touting the prospects of capturing methane from cow manure, a process he said could help electric cooperatives develop a cheaper source of fuel.
BY JAY F. MARKS Published: September 1, 2011

The notion of spinning straw into gold is a fairy tale staple, thanks to accounts of the mischievous dwarf Rumpelstiltskin.

Jerry Bingold, director of renewable energy for the Innovation Center of U.S. Dairy, is touting a modern-day version of that story, with cow manure serving as a source of renewable energy.

Bingold said anaerobic digesters — which are like large covered swimming pools underground filled with bacteria — can capture the methane in cow manure, allowing the dairy industry to reduce its carbon footprint and providing farmers with another source of revenue. “This was a milestone,” he said. “It's actually given a road map to other industries.”

Bingold spoke to about 150 people Tuesday at Touchstone Energy Cooperatives' 2011 Emerging Technology Conference in Norman.

He described the process of turning poop into power, while spotlighting examples of the technology.

Bingold said the technology is best suited to large commercial farms where cows are fed in a line and remain in their stalls. The cement floors in such farms make it easier to collect manure twice a day, he said, showing a picture of pea green slurry that results when manure is washed into the digester.

“From there, we get green power,” he said, drawing chuckles and groans from the audience.

Bingold said bacteria in the digester, buried 16 feet underground, convert the manure into methane in about 21 days. Methane, the main component of natural gas, can be used to generate electricity or fuel vehicles.

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This was a milestone. It's actually given a road map to other industries.”

Jerry Bingold

Director of renewable energy for the Innovation Center of U.S. Dairy


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