Cow dung releases huge amounts of methane gas when it sits around, but few farms do anything to put that waste to use, other than using it as fertilizer. Now a huge plant is being built in China, that will use the waste from 60,000 cows to provide electricity to thousands of homes.
Methane gas powered generators are really nothing new, but what is new is the scale of the operation. By installing four of these massive GE Jenbacher 420 gas engines, the plant expects to avoid the cost restrictions that make smaller installations unprofitable. The Huishan Dairy that's building the plant, maintains a stock of a quarter million head of cattle, or about double the entire cattle population of Florida.
While the plant can't handle the all of the dung created by that many cows, it is expected to provide 5.6 million watts of power, or about enough for 3,500 typical US households. Most Chinese households use far less power, so over there the supply will stretch much further.
This type of facility has some real environmental benefits too, as getting rid of all that poo will greatly reduce that amount of greenhouse gases emitted from the dairy. The Chinese say the plant will capture about 20 million cubic meters of biogas per year.
That generator sure looks nice and clean right now, but imagine being the guy who has to maintain it after all that poo has been pumped through it.