Dutch farmers now have the opportunity to turn cow manure into energy. Turning cow poop into power isn’t a new idea, but the Netherlands government is banking on poo being a potent source of power for their country. The country’s Ministry of Economic Affairs will spend 150 million Euros, around $166.5 million, on a cow poo to power project.
In the Netherlands, the agriculture industry is responsible for 10 percent of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. Methane emanating from dairy farms comprises a majority of the offending emissions. Through the economic ministry’s program, Dutch dairy farmers might be able to curb those emissions through leasing anaerobic digesters, which break manure down into biogas with the help of bacteria. A machine inside the farm takes the cow poop to the digester dome outside, and other machines extract phosphates and nitrates farmers can use for fertilizer from the cow dung. Farmers can sell the biogas at a 12-year fixed price which the government will subsidize.
Dairy farmer Pieter Heeg, who works on his family’s 75-hectare farm, is among the farmers who will turn poo into power with anaerobic digesters. He told The Guardian he anticipates making 10,000 Euros, or over $11,000, every year selling the biogas. His farm used to simply spread manure across their land, but now they’ll be able to obtain energy for their own use and extra income. In 20 days, the Heeg farm generated 9,342 kilowatt hours of electricity using an anaerobic digester, enough to provide a year’s worth of power for three homes.
Huge dairy collective FrieslandCampina, which purchases milk from 13,500 of 17,000 Dutch dairy farmers, is also behind the project. Their goal is for 1,000 big farms in the Netherlands to turn poo to power through the program in the next four years.