Cow Power: photo by Art Oglesby,    Cow manure can produce electricity.
Cow Power: photo by Art Oglesby, Cow manure can produce electricity.

What comes out of the back end of a cow?

Milk and manure. The cows at the Audet family's Blue Spruce Farm make almost 9,000 gallons of milk a day — and about 35,000 gallons of manure. With the help of their power company, Central Vermont Public Service Corp., the Audets have devised a way to extract methane from the manure and pipe it to a generator. They make enough electricity to power 300 to 400 average Vermont homes.

How can electricity be made from cow manure?

If cow manure is pushed into a long, narrow tank and held around 100 degrees, in about 20 days bacteria will digest the manure into methane gas and a liquid slurry. The methane can run an engine and generator to make electricity. A dry, odor-free, fluffy brown substance that is used as bedding for the cows can also be extracted. The remaining liquid contains enough nutrients that it can be used as fertilizer for the farm's feed crops.

Do farms in Minnesota make electricity from manure?

Since late 1999, the Haubenschild farm has been converting their cow manure into electricity. At first they, too, digested manure producing methane which fueled a generator to produce electricity. Then, on Jan. 27, 2005, for the first time anywhere in the world, the methane was fed into a fuel cell.
A fuel cell is like a battery. A chemical reaction generates the electricity. It is totally quiet, and the only waste product is clean water. Haubenschild said it costs 5.1 cents per kilowatt hour to produce electricity from the fuel cell and Great River Energy will buy the surplus electricity from the fuel cell for four cents per KWH. If Minnesota power companies can create a progam similar to Vermont's Cow power program, customers willing to pay a couple extra cents per KWH would allow farmers to make money instead of losing money.

What are the benefits of anaerobic digestion?

    Reduced odor and greenhouse gas emissions
    Fewer pathogens in the digested product
    Nutrient rich effluent to apply to crops
    Electricity to use and to sell
    Possible sale of separated solids as a garden amendment
    Good manure management
    Pay back on the investment

Read more about Cow power
Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering Department, Univ. of MN.
Princeton Union-Eagle
Pioneer Press
FAQ about CVPS Cow Power

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

I think that advances in alternate energy sources are a great idea. The more resources that are available today make it much easier to create a cleaner fuel source that is not a fossil fuel.

posted on Sat, 08/12/2006 - 9:28am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

This is great, but how would you use this to make like fuel for cars?

posted on Wed, 08/30/2006 - 8:53pm
ARTiFactor's picture
ARTiFactor says:

The electricity produced could power an electric car. The methane generated is not practical to use in cars at this time. It could be used if compressed. Vehicles do run on propane and natural gas when properly retrofitted.

posted on Sat, 09/02/2006 - 8:58am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

this thing about cows is preaty cool! where did you find out that?


posted on Thu, 03/22/2007 - 10:32am
ARTiFactor's picture
ARTiFactor says:

The words in red are links. If you "click" them you will go to the website that tells you more.

posted on Fri, 03/23/2007 - 8:43am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

I think it's sweet that you can use cows to get power!

posted on Thu, 03/22/2007 - 1:31pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

I am sure that using cow manure is wasting precious time in the implementation of solar, windmill and other better forms of energy.

It is big business again here that wants to make any money that it can at the expense of these animals.

More and more people are eliminating meats from their diets for health reasons, therefore, there will be less and less manure so why not just jump in and get the solar cars going !

I know drinking milk is bad for us so why whould I want to exploit the cows only for thier poop? I wouldn't want a car that runs on that.


posted on Sun, 03/25/2007 - 8:57am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

You know what... solar cars have a long way to go before we as normal citizens can even drive them so why not use what we can to save the earth?? If fed properly cattle can be very useful resources and there meat and milk if very nutritous for use. The manure has nothing toxic in it. Its just what they eat. The cows on the haubenschild farm are fed siloage and hay. It all came from the land. You use trees to make paper right? Trees come from the land. their food comes from the land too so it's not bad. just to let you know it's not wasting time. it pays for itself.

posted on Thu, 03/29/2007 - 10:32am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

the meat industry is not going to end anytime soon, so why not maximize the energy prom cow's manure? Manure that is dumped in water sites create toxic affects to our environment as well as contribute a lot of greenhouse gases to our environment. Conducting cow's manure into energy is a great idea to help reduce global warming and an alternative source to fossil fuels

posted on Fri, 04/30/2010 - 1:40am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

I love the Haubenschild farm!!!!!!! They are so self sufficent and they help out other buisnesses in the Cambridge Isanti area with their manure driving energy. Thanks a bunch guys!!

posted on Thu, 03/29/2007 - 10:26am
Ryan's picture
Ryan says:

I just wanna know a list of materials needed to make the whole process work...to get it started.

posted on Thu, 03/29/2007 - 10:39am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

EWWWWWWWWWWWWWW This is sooooooooooooooooooo gross!

posted on Sun, 04/22/2007 - 12:45pm
blair's picture
blair says:

Hey mate

i have an idea of converting human waste in the same method. are there any differences? My town puts the sewage out into the bay...polluting it too buggery. we shoudl be stoping this.
can you do it mass scale..ie for about 30000people?

appreciate if you wrote back



posted on Mon, 06/11/2007 - 4:05am
Samer's picture
Samer says:

Hey eww this is nasty ahahaha

posted on Wed, 06/13/2007 - 7:09pm
jimly's picture
jimly says:

ahhmmm...i find this topic interested. . .me and my group want to make this. . . can u give me the procedures in making this? . .. thankz ! dont worry this wouldn't be saled. . .we're using this for ouw project!

posted on Fri, 10/26/2007 - 5:58pm
ARTiFactor's picture
ARTiFactor says:

Setting up a "Cow Power" operation similar to this one will cost you around $350,000. If you are serious about this I recommend you hire a consultant because variables in climate and manure types require customization.
You can start by studying this report. http://www.mnproject.org/pdf/Haubyrptupdated.pdf

posted on Sat, 10/27/2007 - 7:57am
ARTiFactor's picture
ARTiFactor says:

Also the AgStar website will get you started.

posted on Sat, 10/27/2007 - 7:58am
Waxio's picture
Waxio says:

Hi. I'm from the Uk, I have checked out the sites you suggested but allot of them seem to have expired. Do these plants happen on a comerecial scale often in the US? I am British and seriously interested in selling this to the british farmer. The government here is throwing allot of money at renewables and I believe would cover costs with subsidies. But that aside. Do you know what companies produce these things and what sort of education is required to work on them.
Any help you can give me would be great.

posted on Wed, 02/06/2008 - 2:01pm
ARTiFactor's picture
ARTiFactor says:

Thanks for alerting me to the dead links. The University of Minnesota has done a lot of restructuring and in renaming their colleges has apparently also renamed their web pages.
The farm setups need to be engineered for different manure types and climates.
The AgStar link still works. They link to this page describing 111 farms using anaerobic digester systems in the United States.
I found a paper (27 pages) that may help out called The Economics and Feasibility of Electricity Generation using Manure
(PDF). If you have trouble opening the PDF link try this.
Another organization that stays on top of cutting edge renewable energy research is Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment (IREE). There a contact link on their website. I would recommend you call or e-mail Sarah Schmitz.

posted on Wed, 02/06/2008 - 7:15pm
Liza's picture
Liza says:

The Dallas Zoo is looking at using a biogas generator to turn animal waste into power. Officials say the project (estimated to cost about $1million) will pay for itself within 10 years.

posted on Fri, 11/02/2007 - 12:26pm
dj warden's picture
dj warden says:

i think its an exalent idea i am going to try this brilliant thing

posted on Mon, 11/12/2007 - 5:34am
Tigran's picture
Tigran says:

Hello . I think that it is great idea. I would like to know who can bulit that kinde of power station and how much it will cost. I will invest in that kinde of green power. [email protected]

posted on Sat, 12/22/2007 - 5:38am
ARTiFactor's picture
ARTiFactor says:

About $350,000. See comment above for links to helpful sites.

posted on Mon, 12/24/2007 - 8:48am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

That is what i call some stanky power!

posted on Tue, 01/19/2010 - 10:15pm
sarah in 9th grade's picture
sarah in 9th grade says:

im doing a report on cow power and wanted to know can cow power be used as car fuel??What can cow power be used for??

posted on Sat, 03/13/2010 - 12:56pm
ARTiFactor's picture
ARTiFactor says:

The fuel generated is methane which would not work in cars unless the car was adapted for it. It is used to generate electricity which an electric car could use.

posted on Sun, 03/14/2010 - 6:51am
ARTiFactor's picture
ARTiFactor says:

The fuel generated is methane which would not work in cars unless the car was adapted for it. It is used to generate electricity which an electric car could use.

posted on Sun, 03/14/2010 - 6:50am
Anonymous Person's picture
Anonymous Person says:

Eww Thats Nasety!

posted on Tue, 11/16/2010 - 2:36pm
Shana's picture
Shana says:

I think that letting all that raw manure pollute drinking water and stink up the countryside (and in the meantime, contributing to the global warming) is much nastier than recovering the methane and other products.

posted on Tue, 11/16/2010 - 4:21pm

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