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Converting Cow Manure into Kilowatts

Converting farm waste into something useful and productive is nothing new (see Challenger’s biomass baler) but some researchers are getting very creative. HP is conducting research on using cow manure to power a new data center. The research paper was recently presented at the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) International Conference on Energy Sustainability in Phoenix, Arizona.

“As data centers require ever more power to operate, they’re increasingly being located near existing power generation or cooling resources. One largely untapped source of energy, however, is the methane generated by manure on farms around the world.What ways have you found to turn your farm waste into something useful and beneficial?

*Photo via Cathy, Sam, Max and Mai’s photostream on Flickr

If released into the atmosphere, methane is 21 times more damaging to the environment than carbon dioxide. But it can be captured and used to power electrical generators.

The HP ASME paper shows how a farm of 10,000 dairy cows could generate 1MW of electricity, enough to power a typical modern data center and still support other needs on the farm.

Heat generated by a data center could also be used to more efficiently process the animal waste and thus increase methane production.

This symbiotic relationship helps address the dual challenge of reducing farm pollution and making data centers more environmentally sustainable, says Chandrakant Patel, HP Fellow and director of HP’s Sustainable IT Ecosystem Lab.” Source: The Cow-Powered Data Center: HP Labs Feature Article (May 2010)

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