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Farm Hopes 'Cow Power' No Hot Air


A farm in East China's Jiangsu Province is preparing to ensure that no cow manure goes to waste, by constructing a power plant to harness methane gas.

The plant, which is being built at Chuantian Aquatic Land in a suburb of provincial capital Nanjing, will be the first of its kind in China when it opens this September, the Nanjing Daily reported recently.

Construction started in December, with an investment of 2.81 million yuan (US$350,000) coming from a Ministry of Agriculture grant and Chuantian Milk Production Company.

According to CEO Gao Zhong, an anaerobic digester works to convert solid manure into methane gas, which can then be used to make electricity.

"The plant will use about 360,000 tons of manure every year, which is all produced by the 1,000 cows in our farm.

"It will generate about 90,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity," said Gao.

This "cow power" has other benefits, according to Gao.

Currently manure is left to decompose on the grass, so the new system will mean a decreased level of odor.

What is more, after extracting the methane, the digester will kill pathogens and weed seeds, turning it into a safe fertilizer to sell to local farmers.

"The project not only protects the environment, but also generates economic benefits. We are expecting to make a profit in four years," said Gao.

The project was approved by the Ministry of Agriculture as a model clean energy production project for rural areas last year.

"Because of the tough energy situation in the country, it is the right time to adopt renewable energy production methods. The green alliance Chuantian and the agriculture departments have formed is a win-win situation for farms and the environment," said Zhou Min, an official with Nanjing Municipal Bureau of Agriculture.

The technology for the plant comes from the Hangzhou Energy and Environment Engineering Company. An employee surnamed Zhang said that while the technology is already widely used in Denmark, Germany and Japan, advances need to be made before it becomes common in China.

"A minimum of 700 cows is needed to make this sort of plant work due to technical limitations," he said. "As the technology advances, smaller-scale farms will be able to benefit from this process."

(China Daily May 24, 2006)

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