Dairy farms could run data centers, HP says

Well, maybe not dairy farms exactly. But HP is studying whether the waste from the bovine inhabitants of said farms could become a power source for data centers, Greentech Media says in this fascinating article.

Researchers say some systems could be profitable in only three years. One plan calls for an anaerobic digester to turn manure into methane and recycle waste heat from a turbine. It would cool equipment and warm the bacteria inside the digester.

This is what the story says:

"An average cow is good for around 100 watts of power a day, according to biogas experts, and it takes only a few weeks to turn manure into a syngas, which can be processed into methane. The methane can then be injected into turbines.

"Companies such as Microgy and BioEnergy Solutions have touted manure and digesters as sources for methane. BioEnergy has over 70,000 cows under contract for its digesters in California. Adobe has also studied the prospect of integrating biogas into the energy menu for its headquarters. "

What could that mean for the San Joaquin Valley? We are the top dairy region in the nation with some 1.5 million dairy cows. At 150 pounds per day, those cows produce tons of manure.

There air-quality issues to deal with, as this Los Angeles Times story notes, but HP researchers are encouraged. Company technologist Cullen Bash says a farm with 10,000 cows and an investment of $5 million could recoup costs in two years, and generate positive cash flow in the third.

Granted, most dairy farms in the Valley aren't as big as that, but who is to say well-heeled farmers wouldn't beef up.

The San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Organization is a nonprofit dedicated to improving our region's quality of life by increasing its production and use of clean energy. The SJVCEO works with cities and counties and public and private organizations to demonstrate the benefits of energy efficiency and renewable energy throughout the eight-county region of the San Joaquin Valley.