There are over 13 million head of cattle in the state of Texas. Each cow will produce about a ton of manure a year. Instead of being a waste product, some are now considering this 13 million tons of manure, or cow patties as we call them here in Texas, to be a valuable resource in the search for clean and renewable energy.
This is not such a crazy idea. For thousands of years, animal dung has been burned as a fuel to cook and to heat homes with, especially in under-developed parts of the world. Now this old idea is being given a modern twist. There are thousands of plants in Europe that produce "biogas" [methane] from animal dung, and use this biogas to produce electric power.
Now this idea has finally come to Texas, where we have an abundance of the natural resource needed -- cow patties.
Microgy Inc., a Colorado-based energy company, is building a plant in Stephenville to convert cow patties into natural gas, which will then be sold to gas-burning power plants. They already have a contract to sell the gas produced in Stephenville to the Lower Colorado River Authority in Austin.
The plant will process about 10,000 pounds of manure a day, and produce enough gas provide electric power for 6,000 homes. The best part is that this power will be produced without adding to the pollution problems in Texas.
Of course, this is just a drop in the bucket when you consider the enormous power needs of Texas. But you have to start somewhere, and Microgy would like to build more of the biogas-producing plants.
Biogas plants will never produce enough gas for all of Texas' energy needs, but combined with other clean forms of energy, such as wind-powered generators, it could be a significant factor in the energy equation.
To me, this makes a lot more sense than just continuing to build coal-burning and pollution-producing power plants. A recent poll shows that a large majority of Texans agree.
Texas has a problem with meeting EPA clean air standards. It is time for us to consider new and innovative ideas such as biogas.