Cow manure for electricity? Kansas is giving it a try

The Kansas City StarDecember 9, 2009 

Meadow muffins, meet Reddy Kilowatt.

Let's translate that: Meadow muffins, better known as cow manure, have a future in producing electricity.

Gene Pflughoft is the economic development director for Grant County in southwest Kansas. Early next year, he said, equipment at a cattle feedlot will begin turning manure into fuel that could make electricity for 30 homes.

If the demonstration project is successful — and Pflughoft is confident it will be — larger units could be placed at feedlots to take advantage of the state's abundant supplies.

Kansas has plenty of cow manure, with two cows for every human in the state. Over the course of a year, just one cow's manure contains the same amount of energy found in 140 gallons of gasoline.

"There's a lot of interest, and it's very renewable," he said.

The Bipartisan Policy Conference in Washington — established by former U.S. Sens. Bob Dole, Howard Baker, Tom Daschle and George Mitchell — recently issued a study that said Kansas could use more cow manure by blending it with coal.

The report said that 50,000 cows could provide enough dung to power 24,000 homes.

Manure from other sources is also being used — even to make gasoline.

In Missouri, poultry farmers have approached Kansas City Power & Light about adding manure as fuel to coal-fired power plants. The utility said it was collecting information.

Meanwhile, a 55-megawatt plant in Minnesota is relying on turkey droppings.

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