Watch out for that cow pie — it could soon power your home.
In Texas, it’s already being done. A company called Microgy has a new plant that takes cow manure and converts it into truly “natural” gas. The plant was built on fertile territory. Erath County, which is about two hours outside of Dallas, is home to thousands of dairy cattle. The cows produce a lot of milk, but they also produce a lot of something else — and you can only use so much of it to fertilize your fields.
Enter Microgy. The company encourages dairy farmers to haul in loads of manure to the plant. Farmers are happy because they have a clean way to get rid of a lot of waste and Microgy’s happy because the company has plenty of raw material to power the plant.
Here’s how it works. After farmers bring in the manure, it gets stacked into huge piles. Bit by bit, it’s loaded into a huge tank, where water is added and the mix gets filtered. Then other ingredients are added and the resulting liquid is piped into huge tower-like tanks. That’s when the bacteria in the manure mixture go to work. The bacteria chow down on the organic material in the liquid and make “biogas” in the bargain. That gas is trapped at the top of the tanks. It’s siphoned off and converted into commercial grade natural gas.
How much power can this really produce? The Lower Colorado River Authority is buying the gas Microgy produces and converting it to electricity. LCRA estimates the plant’s gas powers 6,000 homes a year. Not too shabby for a bunch of four-legged cud-chewers that are just doing what they do naturally.
Maggie Lineback is a Dallas bureau producer.