General Electric announced that it has finished testing a biogas cogeneration plant powered by the manure produced by 4,000 cows for a dairy in the Ukraine, the first such facility in the Eastern European country, according to the company.
The company said the combined heat and power (CHP) plant is powered by a Jenbacher cogeneration gas engine. Once converted into biogas, the manure from the cows produces 625 kW of electricity and 686 kW of thermal output.
According to GE, that level of output is equivalent to demand for 1.2 million cubic meters of natural gas, and reduces emissions by 18,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide.
GE said the plant offers the advantage of solving the issue of safe disposal of cow waste while simultaneously helping to reduce dependence on traditional fossil fuels. Manure can often be reused as fertilizer, but can also potentially leech nitrates and phosphates into groundwater.
GE said their cogeneration system can also potentially reduce greenhouse gas emissions and that the remaining substrate from the digester can be used as high-quality, agricultural fertilizer, with lower acidity levels and more nutrient retention.
The company said the plant performed well during its initial test phase, tolerating temperatures as low as -30 degrees centigrade during the Ukraine winter. The company using the plant, the Ukrainian Milk Company, received approval to sell power to the grid based on a “green” tariff.
HP’s research arm, HP Labs, has also been researching cow manure’s energy potential. The company recently designed a system that combines cow manure with the heat output of data centers to create an environmentally sustainable operation.The research paper shows how a farm with 10,000 dairy cows can meet the power requirements of a medium-sized, 1-megawatt (MW) data center with enough power leftover to support other electrical requirements on the farm.
PG&E in California and Energy Trust of Oregon have also been implementing projects that will derive power from cow manure.
GE said it is also using the Jenbacher system at several other biogas projects throughout the world, including a recently announced project at the Liaoning Huishan Cow Farm in China, which according to the company would become the world’s largest biogas project based on cow manure.
The gas engines are also using biogas created from chicken manure to generate needed power and heat at the Beijing Deqingyuan Chicken Farm Waste Utilization Plant, a large chicken farm north of Beijing, and in July 2009, GE’s biogas engines began to power China’s largest chicken waste biogas-energy plant at the Minhe Animal Husbandry.
Burning chicken manure, however, has raised its own set of environmental concerns, with critics contending that the practice can emit dangerous levels of carbon monoxide and sulfur dioxide.