Several centuries ago, many German farmers and their families lived in housebarns. These buildings were comprised of the barn on the ground level and the home on the second and sometimes third level. The primary reason for this arrangement was that the warmth from the animals would rise up and help heat the home. That was one of the first uses of an alternative energy source called biomass.
One cow’s waste can produce enough electricity to light two 110-watt light bulbs twenty-four hours a day.
Biomass is organic material made from plants and animals that can be processed in order to provide energy. Biomass is processed by burning and by fermenting. The most common type of biomass that is burned is wood; however, garbage and wood waste can also be burned to produce energy. Another common biomass product is methane gas.
The Central Vermont Public Service corporation (www.cvps.com/cowpower). an electric utility company, offers its customers the option to power their homes using CVPS Cow Power. Local dairy farmers gather cow manure into specially designed holding tanks called methane digesters that keep the manure at a certain temperature. The manure releases methane gas, which is piped into a generator that creates electricity.
Unless you decide to build one for yourself, methane digesters are only available for larger agricultural facilities. However, as more people explore the benefits of methane gas, small residential units may be available in the future.