Anaerobic Digestion: Let’s Ruminate on It

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Cow poop ready to be turned into energy. Photo by Jurgen Hess

When you visit a dairy community there is one smell in the air: thousands of pounds of poop. It’s a mind-boggling amount of manure, far too much to throw into a compost bin. Because of this overwhelming quantity of dung, dairy farms face the same problem faced by all human communities: what to do with waste. Animal waste fills our sewage facilities and farm lagoons; trash waste fills our landfills, basements, and garages. It’s not difficult to imagine a WALL-E-esque future in which the world is overrun with human waste.

Many facilities are looking to a much older bit of science to deal with this waste: anaerobic digestion, the breakdown of organic material into a burnable gas. Several facilities in the gorge area utilize “anaerobic digesters” including dairies, landfills, and metro areas.

How effective they are as a source of alternative energy? What do these systems look like? And are they long-term money savers?

 

Adapted from Emily George’s article “Methane Digestion: A Use for all that Poop” first printed on Envirogorge in December of 2014

About the Author:

Emily Kao, Associate Editor. After graduating from Carleton College with a degree in Environmental Studies Emily returned to Hood River and spent the next few years working for various non-profits in the area. She lives in a Tiny House she built with her partner where they enjoy cooking, crafting, and taking advantage of the recreational opportunities of the Columbia River Gorge.

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