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By Paul Sisco
Washington
28 August 2008

By capturing methane gas from manure before the gas escapes into the atmosphere, farmers can convert it into energy, taking pressure off the overall power grid. In today's Searching for Solutions report, we hear from a successful dairy farmer who is doing just that. VOA's Paul Sisco has more.  

Farmer says,
Farmer says, "One cow will produce enough energy to keep one light bulb burning twenty-four hours a day"
Larry Castelanelli is a farmer in Lodi, California. He has found a way to get energy from his dairy cows, as well as milk.

Cows eat, drink, and yes - excrete. Castelanelli captures methane from the waste of his herd and powers his farm with it.

"One cow will produce enough energy to keep one light bulb burning 24 hours a day," Castelanelli said.

He has more than 1,500 cows. Describing the process, he says, "What's bubbled up here is all that methane gas," Castelanelli said  … and there's lots of it.

The process begins as. twice a day, the waste is flushed down alleys or troughs, and solids are separated from liquids by a machine.

"(Then) all it is, is a screen, taking the solids out," Castelanelli said. "The solids drop down here and the water goes over to the digester. "

Solids are separated from liquids by this machine
Solids are separated from liquids by this machine
The digester is a shallow lagoon, covered by a plastic bubble. The methane gas released is harnessed here and sent to a generator.

"We capture the gas," he said. "It is methane that would normally go up in the ozone. We capture it. We run it through the generator. We get electricity, and we run the dairy with it."

He operates his 485 hectare (1200 acre) farm on power from cow manure.

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