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Austrian Cheesemaker Uses Cow Poop To Power Farm

Austrian Cheesemaker Uses Cow Poop To Power Farm

At the foothills of the Austrian Alps, dairy farmers and cheesemakers Toni and Martha Fahringer are bringing new meaning to the phrase “stinky cheese.”

Unlike many of their competitors, which depend on electricity or fossil fuels to power their homes and cheesemaking operations, the Fahringers use cow manure to supply the heat for the cheesemaking process.

The family owns 35 Simmental cows, fed on hay cut three times a year from the farm’s own fields. Because the animals’ stomachs can’t completely digest the grass, their dung contains plant matter that can be broken down even further in an anaerobic digester to produce methane gas.

When the cows are houses in their cozy shed, a collection of automatic scrapers deliver the cow dung into a massive concrete tank buried under the building. The gas is gathered and stored in a large flexible ‘bag’, which is housed and protected in a typical Austrian wooden shed a few metres away from the slurry tank.

The stored methane is burnt in a conventional central heating boiler, which has been adapted to burn the gas. This provides the majority of the heating requirements for the family and its cheesemaking business throughout the year.

With fuel prices rising all over the world, and claims that methane from cows is responsible for 18 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions, utilizing bovine waste in this manner could be a way to solve two problems at once.

Last year China’s Huishan Dairy became home to the world’s largest system for generating electricity by collecting methane gas emitted by fermenting cow manure. GE supplied the project’s gas-powered generators, and hopes that the effort will showcase the large-scale possibilities of the technology (MIT Technology Review).

Recently, a group of researchers at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) demonstrated a methane-fueled micro-solid oxide fuel cell that was able to operate at much lower temperatures than many scientists thought was possible. Some believe that this fuel-cell technology could be the secret to harnessing methane energy for common electronics.

Related Reading:

McDonald’s To Fund Cow Methane Study

Lights Powered By Dog Poop! (Video)

Sea Otter Poop May Help Save The Species

Can Chicken Poop Help Slow Climate Change?

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Image Credit: Flickr - andyarthur

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57 comments

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7:38AM PDT on May 31, 2012

Everyone should have done this everywhere.

7:38AM PDT on May 31, 2012

where can ordinary people get metane digesters?

1:52AM PDT on May 6, 2011

Anyone who has ever raised a cow or a horse could have explained this. This is why I get annoyed when reading the stories about dairy cows only being a bad thing for the planet because they make "methane gas". Anybody with any knowledge also knows that methane can be converted to energy as well. Manure piles create a ton of heat. Go look at any fresh "pile" and you'll see steam coming off of it. A manure "pile" (where it's removed and put into a BIG PILE) will remain warm far down inside even on the coldest days. It only makes sense to take advantage of this.

5:28PM PDT on May 1, 2011

Sounds like a good idea!

1:07PM PDT on May 1, 2011

wow

1:56PM PDT on Apr 29, 2011

Thank you for posting.

6:09AM PDT on Apr 29, 2011

good job!

4:36AM PDT on Apr 29, 2011

use more of the cow. irk vegggie heads. or free the cows, or just raise them for poop.

or free the cows. say "i told you so"

2:29PM PDT on Apr 28, 2011

Very innovative!

8:56AM PDT on Apr 28, 2011

wish all farms would take an example

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