Dairy Finds a Way to Let Cows Power Trucks
FAIR OAKS, Ind. — Here at one of the largest dairy farms in the country, electricity generated using an endless supply of manure runs the equipment to milk around 30,000 cows three times a day.
For years, the farm has used livestock waste to create enough natural gas to power 10 barns, a cheese factory, a cafe, a gift shop and a maze of child-friendly exhibits about the world of dairy, including a 4D movie theater.
All that, and Fair Oaks Farms was still using only about half of the five million pounds of cow manure it vacuumed up from its barn floors on a daily basis. It burned off the excess methane, wasted energy sacrificed to the sky.
But not anymore.
The farm is now turning the extra manure into fuel for its delivery trucks, powering 42 tractor-trailers that make daily runs to raw milk processing plants in Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee. Officials from the federal Department of Energy called the endeavor a “pacesetter” for the dairy industry, and said it was the largest natural gas fleet using agricultural waste to drive this nation’s roads.
I know what you're thinking - with natural gas so frackin' cheap, is it really economical to recycle free manure? Well, kinda maybe:
Still, not everyone is convinced that the time is ripe for more manure-powered vehicles, particularly when regular natural gas remains abundant and cheap.
“The market is just not firm yet,” said Michael Boccadoro, a bioenergy consultant from California who is finishing a study of the possibility of neighboring dairies in the San Joaquin Valley sharing a single digester. “It’s all a tiny bit premature.”
And this is not precisely a game-changer:
Dennis Smith, director of the Clean Cities program for the federal Department of Energy, said about 8,000 large-scale dairy and swine farms across the country could potentially support similar biogas recovery projects. When coupled with landfills and wastewater treatment plants, he said, there is potential to someday replace as much as 10 billion gallons of gasoline annually with renewable fuel.
The US uses roughly 3 billion barrels of gasoline per year, or 126 billion barrels. So we are talking about an 8 percent saving, which is fine as one more way to nibble around the edges of our hydrocarbon usage.
Well, as the technology develops I think this guy can lead the way in recycling manure.