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Farmer saves $200,000 with poo power

Ayesha Tejpar, CNN
Four generations of Saylors have worked the family’s dairy farm for nearly a century, but for the past three years, the cows have been doing something besides providing milk: They’ve been helping power the place.

“The farm used to get a lot of complaints,” says farmer Shawn Saylor. “It used to stink a lot.”

1 of 2 Growing up on the sprawling spread 90 minutes from Pittsburgh, 36-year-old farmer Shawn Saylor developed into a self-described science buff.

So it was no surprise that, when faced with rising energy costs, Saylor turned to technology.

He tapped into an abundant and easily accessible energy source: manure from about 600 cows…

…Before he installed the system, the pungent smell from the cows could linger for three to four days, Saylor said. “The farm used to get a lot of complaints from motorists, which is understandable. It used to stink a lot.”

Now, the digesters reduce 98 percent of all odor, although he admits that if the wind blows, you still “get a whiff.”

The farm’s leftover solid waste is sold to the community…
(31 July 2009)

Vancouver firm makes fertilizer out of human sewage

CBC News
A small Vancouver company has developed a process for turning human sewage waste into valuable fertilizer for crops.

“We can produce a high-quality fertilizer from sewage,” University of British Columbia Don Mavinic said. “As long as there are people, sewage-based fertilizer will be a renewable and sustainable resource.”

Mavinic was part of a research team that pioneered research into how a global lack of phosphorus — a nutrient vital to plants — might be addressed.

“Everyone has heard about peak oil,” Mavinic said. “[But] soon, you’ll be hearing about peak phosphate. It’s another major sustainability issue looming on the horizon.”

Current estimates predict that the world will exhaust its supplies of mined phosphorus in as little as 35 years. Global demand for phosphorus will outstrip supply in about a decade, Mavinic estimates.

But it’s a plentiful element in human waste, so researchers have been trying to find a way to extract it.
(3 August 2009)

Wastewater Produces Electricity And Desalinates Water

Science Daily
A process that cleans wastewater and generates electricity can also remove 90 percent of salt from brackish water or seawater, according to an international team of researchers from China and the U.S.

Clean water for drinking, washing and industrial uses is a scarce resource in some parts of the world. Its availability in the future will be even more problematic. Many locations already desalinate water using either a reverse osmosis process — one that pushes water under high pressure through membranes that allow water to pass but not salt — or an electrodialysis process that uses electricity to draw salt ions out of water through a membrane. Both methods require large amounts of energy.

“Water desalination can be accomplished without electrical energy input or high water pressure by using a source of organic matter as the fuel to desalinate water,” the researchers report in a recent online issue of Environmental Science and Technology.

“The big selling point is that it currently takes a lot of electricity to desalinate water and using the microbial desalination cells, we could actually desalinate water and produce electricity while removing organic material from wastewater,” said Bruce Logan, Kappe Professor of Environmental Engineering, Penn State

The team modified a microbial fuel cell — a device that uses naturally occurring bacteria to convert wastewater into clean water producing electricity — so it could desalinate salty water…
(7 August 2009)