Is poop power profitable?

Read the full post at SmartPlanet.

Farmers can profit from their cows, pigs and chickens in more ways than one. Along with producing milk, eggs and meat, the animals make manure, and a lot of it. Farms can extract methane from livestock waste through a process called anaerobic digestion. Across the country, 162 farms generated about 453,000 megawatt-hours of electricity last year.

I discussed one of those farms recently. On 9,000-hog farm in North Carolina, Google is offsetting some of its carbon emissions by supporting a pig power project. Questions arose in the comment section on whether anaerobic digestion would be profitable without such financial backing mechanisms, and if so, why weren’t more farms getting into the poop power business.

According to a new study, published in the Journal of Dairy Science, manure-to-methane systems can bring in the moolah. But yes, farmers do need a helping hand—in the form of grants, government subsidies, or customer support—to get their systems up and running. Upfront equipment costs, after all, can fall between $1 million and $3 million.

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