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Vermont Launches 'Cow Power' System

timothy posted about 8 years ago | from the excuse-me-are-you-saying-moo? dept.

400

odyaws writes "Central Vermont Public Service has launched Cow Power, a system by which power users can opt to buy 25, 50, or 100% of their electricity from dairy farms that run generators on methane obtained from cow manure. Cow Power costs only 4 cents/kWh more than market price, so a household like mine would only pay $5-6/month more at 100% usage. The big question now is whether Vermont-based Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream will use power generated from the manure of cows treated with Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone."

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400 comments

Kurt Cowbain dead but too late. (0)

Adolf Hitroll (562418) | about 8 years ago | (#15695823)

I just heard some sad news on teh radio - Horror/Sci Fi singer Kurt Cowbain was found dead in his trailer this morning. There weren't any more details. I'm sure everyone in teh Slashdot community will miss him - even if you didn't enjoy his work, tehre's no denying his contributions to popular culture. Truly a gwunge icon.

SLASHDOT RUNS ON STEAMY PILES OF SHIT TOO (1)

CmdrTaco (troll) (578383) | about 8 years ago | (#15695843)

You know what a slashdotting means behind the scenes? That's when Zonk "has a slash" as you english loving fags would say, then dots your eyes with a couple of huge shits.

shit, proof, stfu (1)

(fagging beta) (983460) | about 8 years ago | (#15695880)

Proof or stfu.

YOU WANT PROOF? YOU CAN'T HANDLE THE PROOF! (1)

CmdrTaco (troll) (578383) | about 8 years ago | (#15695896)

Becuase when you open your eyes, and Zonk's explosive taco bell diarrhea sears your eyeballs, then well, your a fag. Asshole.

Let me be the first to say... (5, Funny)

bcat24 (914105) | about 8 years ago | (#15695828)

That idea really stinks!

Re:Let me be the first to say... (4, Funny)

RsG (809189) | about 8 years ago | (#15695862)

I call BS. This is a complete load of manure.

Beggers can't be choosers. (3, Insightful)

megaditto (982598) | about 8 years ago | (#15695939)

A 200W PSU for a computer will consume 144 kWh per month. Just that comp alone would cost $6 extra to run.

Given that the submitter "odyaws" reports his electricity usage at about 150 kWh/month, that puts him smack in the middle of cheap-ass mom's basement dwellers.

Either the guy is blowing smoke outta his ass about the true cost, or he's the kind of guy that runs AC off the street lamp.

Average American person sucks up over 700 kWh/month. Traditional successfull 'geek' household (decent AC, two-car heated garage, freezer/fridge, range/microwave, CCTV, plasma in the basement, gadgets, 24/7 computers, VAX cluster (winter heating), wireless, hot tub) will eat up 10,000 kWh easily.

Re:Beggers can't be choosers. (1)

megaditto (982598) | about 8 years ago | (#15695961)

Just to clarify, I am not saying this alternative power thing is a bad thing, I am saying it's lame to hide true costs from people.

While this 'clean energy' could be great for businesses that can earn a buck by being 'green', we cannot expect an average person to pay the extra premium given how expensive everything already is (you guys still in college, just you wait until you get out, you will not know what hit you: $2000/month just for necessities is rough).

Re:Beggers can't be choosers. (2, Insightful)

Doc Ruby (173196) | about 8 years ago | (#15696009)

The average American household uses 5KW across the year. Since heating that two car garage is helping keep America dependent on foreign oil, seems to me that whining about $6 a month to run on local energy is cheapass. Especially while Americans are paying around $3 a gallon for gas in cars that get an average 22MPG, less than 10 years ago.

Re:Beggers can't be choosers. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15696084)

$6 will get you 25% cow power if you only use 600kWh, or 100% cow power if you use 150kWh. The parent claims the average person takes 700kWh (I read 800-850). For me, it would be a rate increase of 66% if I went 100% cow power.

Any way you cut it, you're essentially donating to charity. If you think the best charity to donate $6 - $100 / month to is this cow power initiative, then so be it.

If you're saying the average american family pulls 5KW continuously, that would be 3650 kWh / month, or a $146 per month increase for going cow.

Re:Beggers can't be choosers. (1)

rgravina (520410) | about 8 years ago | (#15696101)

What is the deal with America not wanting to be dependent on foreign *anything*? Haven't you guys heard of trade? You know, you have some resources I want and I exchange them for some resources of equal value that you want (resources include money of course)? Some other countries are 100% dependent on trade. Take Japan for example, they have to import almost all of their *food*, let alone their oil.

Could someone please enlighten me why the US is so eager to become so self-sufficient?

Re:Let me be the first to say... (1)

Zemran (3101) | about 8 years ago | (#15695944)

sounds like a load of shit to me...

Re:Let me be the first to say... (1)

brian0918 (638904) | about 8 years ago | (#15695963)

"It stinks!"

Jon Lovitz??? Is that you?!

Re:Let me be the first to say... (1)

Solra Bizna (716281) | about 8 years ago | (#15696046)

"It stinks!"

Oh no. I'm in Pod People!

It was MST'ed, by the way. [tejat.net]

-:sigma.SB

for that price... (5, Funny)

Digitus1337 (671442) | about 8 years ago | (#15695832)

Who would want to pay more for crappy power?

let's marginalize alternative power (5, Insightful)

humankind (704050) | about 8 years ago | (#15695848)

Way to go... let's marginalize every single attempt to seek out alternative power sources. This way we can be married to oil for that much longer. Look on the bright side.. your kids get to see the middle east.

Re:let's marginalize alternative power (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15695875)

humankind can be a real jerk.

Re:let's marginalize alternative power (2, Funny)

legallyillegal (889865) | about 8 years ago | (#15695892)

want to stop using oil? use more oil. the more oil you use, the quicker it runs out.

Re:let's marginalize alternative power (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15695965)

Unfortunately, there's a good chance that we'll run out of oxygen before we run out of oil.

Re:let's marginalize alternative power (4, Insightful)

RsG (809189) | about 8 years ago | (#15695990)

What to quit smoking? Smoke all the cigarrettes in your current pack right now. After all, the more you smoke, the faster they run out, right?

I'll leave aside the global warming debate (which will only bring flames) and focus on the economic and technological side of things. Depending entirely on a problematic, finite fuel source and saying to ourselves that "we'll quit when it becomes neccesary, and not a moment sooner" is essentially procrastinating and pretending the problem isn't there.

The simple facts are:
1) We have a finite supply of easily tapped oil. We have larger, but still finite supplies of less easily extractable sources of oil (like tar sands).
2) Our demand for the aformentioned oil is increasing.
3) We have no oil eqivalents yet that can take it's place. Nuclear isn't good for small vehicles. Solar/wind/hydro/etc are good for local power generation and little else. Fuel cells require either hydrocarbons or cheap electricity.
3) We will need to find another source of fuel eventually, whether in 10 years or 50.

None of these are in dispute, right? Unlike global warming, there isn't even any debate in the oil industry, much less the scientific world. All of these facts are easily demonstrated.

Now given that, why on earth would we wait til we've used our exisitng oil supplies up? For one thing, we do use oil for a lot more than just fuel, so we don't want to run out too soon even if we do develop a non-fossil fuel alternative. For another, we already have the technology to start tackling this problem now, even if it'll take years to completely kick the habit.

Waiting until we're almost out is a recipe for disaster. It's akin to quiting smoking once you've started coughing up blood. What if it runs out on us and we're still 10 or 20 years away from having a viable plan B? Do you really think a massive economic recession in the future is better than a taking a few expensive steps in the right direction today?

Saying "use more oil, the more you use the quicker it runs out" is ridiculous and irrational. I honestly hope you were joking, but even if you are, I've seen plenty of other people express the same idea as a serious solution. Complacancy is an extremely bad idea when you can see a disaster coming.

And like I said, all of the above is true regardless of global warming or the environment.

Re:let's marginalize alternative power (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15696032)

3) We have no oil eqivalents yet that can take it's place. Nuclear isn't good for small vehicles. Solar/wind/hydro/etc are good for local power generation and little else. Fuel cells require either hydrocarbons or cheap electricity.
3) We will need to find another source of fuel eventually, whether in 10 years or 50.
*Slaps forehead*

That'll teach me to proofread before I post. That should read 3), 4).

-RsG

Re:let's marginalize alternative power (2, Funny)

edflyerssn007 (897318) | about 8 years ago | (#15696109)

I'll leave aside the global warming debate (which will only bring flames)

Was the flames a global Warming joke?

-ed

Re:let's marginalize alternative power (-1, Flamebait)

humankind (704050) | about 8 years ago | (#15696151)

Unlike global warming, there isn't even any debate in the oil industry, much less the scientific world.

There is no debate on the global warming issue either. Don't you have something better to do, like lick Karl Rove's ass instead of posting here?

You are in Luck (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15696049)

GWB, Cheney, and all the major oil companies agree with your logic. In fact, they have been trying hard to get America to use it up quickly.

Re:let's marginalize alternative power (5, Funny)

Velox_SwiftFox (57902) | about 8 years ago | (#15695916)

I'm looking forward to cow-tipping being classed as a terrorist attack on the energy supply.

Re:let's marginalize alternative power (4, Funny)

RsG (809189) | about 8 years ago | (#15696075)

We're raising the terror alert level to Brown :-P

What it actually costs (0)

mshurpik (198339) | about 8 years ago | (#15695851)

>For a residential customer using 500 kWh per month, that would add $20 to the monthly electric bill

Also,

>For every kilowatt-hour requested by customers and provided by a Vermont farm, CVPS will pay the farmer the market price for energy plus the Cow Power charge of 4 cents for the environmental benefits of the generation.

What a scam.

Re:What it actually costs (4, Interesting)

MustardMan (52102) | about 8 years ago | (#15695866)

I don't get what you're saying. How is it a scam? They pay the farmer for the power, plus a little bonus as an incentive to use otherwise wasted gas to provide an environmentally friendly source of power. I personally think it's an awesome idea - I wish there were more incentive for people to use and produce alternative power sources.

Re:What it actually costs (1)

mshurpik (198339) | about 8 years ago | (#15695879)

You like being taxed at 40%?

Re:What it actually costs (3, Insightful)

Aranth Brainfire (905606) | about 8 years ago | (#15695911)

Calculations, done correctly:

20 dollars = 2000 cents
2000/500 = 4 cents per kwh. Which then goes to the farmers.

40%? Where?

googling for prices... (1)

Cryptnotic (154382) | about 8 years ago | (#15696100)

According to this page (found via google for "cost of electricity").

http://michaelbluejay.com/electricity/cost.html [michaelbluejay.com]

"The average cost of residential electricity was 9.86/kWh in the U.S. in March 2006."

The fee charged by Cow Power is 4 cents per kilowatt hour. That makes the price almost, but not quite, 40% higher. The 4 cents also does NOT go to the farmers. That goes to Cow Power. The farmers presumably get market price for the electricity, minus a commission for Cow Power, presumably. Chances are, after the capital expenditures (cost of generators and methane collection equipment) and maintainence costs, they won't make any money on this either. Cow Power are presumably the only ones who would make money on this deal, since they seem to just be brokers for the selling of this power.

Re:What it actually costs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15695923)

Apparently. but if someone is stupid enough to sign up for this, let them. it's all about letting a bunch of tree hugging hippies think that they're doing something good for mother earth and fleecing them at the same time.

Re:What it actually costs (0, Troll)

Doc Ruby (173196) | about 8 years ago | (#15696013)

We're going to spend a $TRILLION on the Iraq War, and we're paying at least 50% more for gas than before we invaded. If we all ran on cow power, we'd have saved at least that amount. How do you like it?

Re:What it actually costs (2, Interesting)

Locutus (9039) | about 8 years ago | (#15695898)

It looks like the plan was to NOT letting this get too popular. The fact that customers have to pay more for this power AND the plan is to pay the farmers more than the current rate is the exact technique I'd use if I didn't want too many customers picking this option. Who's going to make the choice to pay about 30% more for energy?

This looks like a scam to make this look like the "green" thing to do when in fact, the result is going to make very little difference in how their energy is produced. Sounds just like Bush's hydrogen vs hybrid strategies.

LoB

Re:What it actually costs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15695962)

This same thing is true in New York; Long Island residents have the option of paying extra for "Green Power", which is produced only from hydroelectric plants/geothermal in upstate NY/other places.

Of course, last year when oil prices went up, the power company sent out a notice that "due to increased oil prices, we are forced to raise rates"... and the rates went up even if your power was supposed to be not coming from oil to begin with.

Re:What it actually costs (4, Insightful)

Firehed (942385) | about 8 years ago | (#15696081)

Well in case you're not familar with the area, Vermont used to be something like 95% farmland in area that wasn't forested. We're losing that out to relatively large urban development and a huge influx of people to the Burlington area to hit our new array of large chain stores (WalMart, Home Depot, Circuit City, Best Buy, Bed Bath and Beyond, etc). Less than ten years ago, the only big store in the state was Costco, and that's about 20 miles north of everything else (which is a decent distance in VT, considering how freakin' small we are) and has been there for as long as I can remember. Prior to the development, there used to be nothing more than large open fields with a whole lot of nothing.

Long story short, you're actually exactly right - we don't want this becoming extremely popular in the area. The simple fact is that we don't have nearly as many cows as we did ten years ago, since it's all done in massive superfarms out west. We've had laws passed that keep the milk prices artifically high just so the few family-owned farms still in business don't go under - they're all operating on razor-thin margins as it is, and many are losing money but stay around out of love for what they do.

We actually have a fairly large percent of our population that ARE willing to pay more to be green. My neighbors coughed up for a hybrid not for the gas savings (my father did the math pre-Katrina - even at $3.50/gal, you need to drive about 250,000 miles before you break even after the premium over a standard model) but because it's green - they also paid what I'd imagine is a good bit more for an electric lawnmower instead of a gas-powered one. We've voted down at least half a dozen times a bypass that connects all of the largely-retail areas together, simply due to pollution. While we're largely divided on things like the same-sex civil unions, most of the people in my state put the environment before the economy.

So while the idea may sound like a load of shit to you, the fact is that there wouldn't be enough shit to go around. I hate to be cliche', but this is a perfect example of "if we all do a little, we can all do a lot". Yes, one person using an alternative energy source just makes that person feel good inside, but if we all do it, there's a significant impact. It's not our only alternative idea - we've also looked into using trees in a similar way to a potato-battery (which largely did nothing, one tree had less power than a potato) among several other out-there ideas.

If we've got a dozen different alternative energy methods out there, and each has just 2% of the population using them, we've gone and shifted a quarter of the country - 75 million people - away from oil. While vehicles do tend to need a standard, there's absolutely no reason for every house in the country to get their power from the same method. And already they aren't. But say that we can make all farms not only self-sufficient but even generate a bit of extra power. It may not do a lot out here where the farms are going the way of the Dodo, but out in the land of megafarms, it could actually make a significant impact. I actually know Jerry's (of Ben and Jerry's) wife and son personally (had class with him, in fact), and I can assure you that it would certainly be a B&J thing to do if they found yet another way to support the local community and do something good for the environment.

Re:What it actually costs (2, Informative)

WindBourne (631190) | about 8 years ago | (#15696057)

Colorado requires the local utulity to sell wind and solar. They entered into agreements for all the power long ago. Now, the company is going to charge .1 more/watt than the oil does or the true costs of the energy, whichever is higher. But none of the extra will go to the alternative. IOW, they are not providing incentives to the generator.

Just like the monopoly for the net, we have issues with how we handle power distribution and generation.

Re:What it actually costs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15695922)

No, it's a good thing.

You see, most farmers aren't really interested in investing in power generation equipment. This is an incentive to get them to do that. Once (if) it catches on and becomes more popular, the laws of the free market will kick in, and you'll see the farmers only getting the going rate (or LESS) for the power.

steve

Re:What it actually costs (1)

wall0159 (881759) | about 8 years ago | (#15696121)

Oh definitely. Imagine subsidising a power source.. the government putting vast amounts of money into an unsustainable business proposition. The only thing stupider than that would be to, hmm lets see, fight a war for such a resource when other resources could be used instead.

Imagine that, huh? what a waste of money (not to mention life)!

But seriously now, I've heard that the nuclear industry gets similar government rebates - can anyone quantify this? I suppose future governments having to deal with the waste could be seen as a government subsidy..

Cow Power web server is surviving Slashdot! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15695854)

Amazing that the Central Vermont Public Service web server handles a good Slashdotting better than virtually every other web server I've ever seen.

Viva le Cow Power!

Global Warming? (1)

lionheart1327 (841404) | about 8 years ago | (#15695857)

While definetly greener than burning oil this still contributes as much to global warming? Right?

Re:Global Warming? (4, Informative)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | about 8 years ago | (#15695887)

No, it doesn't, because the carbon was recently removed from the atmosphere by the growing of the plants that the cows ate to produce the, um, fuel. OTOH, when we burn oil, we're bringing up carbon that was taken out of the atmosphere millions of years ago, and putting it back into the atmosphere instead of leaving it in the ground. The only way this isn't closer to carbon-neutral than burning oil is if the cow manure that is going to be burned for power would otherwise be buried deep underground, which I kind of doubt would happen.

Re:Global Warming? (5, Interesting)

RsG (809189) | about 8 years ago | (#15695909)

It's also worth mentioning that methane is a greenhouse gas. It's actually worse than Co2 in this regard, though far less common and also less stable.

Since decomposing cow manure is going to emit methane whether we tap it for power or not (as will the cows themselves) it stands to reason that letting the methane go to waste is more of a greenhouse gas contributor than burning it. After all, the Co2 we release from combusting it will be resorbed by the plants the cows themselves eat, whereas the methane will not. And if we don't burn the stuff, it'll just end up in the atmosphere anyways.

Re:Global Warming? (1)

Nefarious Wheel (628136) | about 8 years ago | (#15696064)

The only way this isn't closer to carbon-neutral than burning oil is if the cow manure that is going to be burned for power would otherwise be buried deep underground, which I kind of doubt would happen...

Umm, it does. The technical innovation that permits this is called the "Plow".

Forget cows, I want to go Tractor Tipping.

Re:Global Warming? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15695890)

While definetly greener than burning oil this still contributes as much to global warming? Right?

Wrong, the key word is "renewables" the cows feed with plants that take CO2 from the air.

Re:Global Warming? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15695902)

The reason the carbon dioxide emmissions of automobiles contributes to global warming is that the carbon in the gasoline had previously been outside of the global carbon cycle. The rapidly increasing levels of carbon in the cycle are a major cause of global warming. The CO2 from "cow power" contains organic carbon that is already in cycle. More importantly the methane would normally be released into the atmosphere, decay, and release its carbon anyways.

Semi-Offtopic: I'm pretty sure that this isn't a new program, I've heard spots for it on Vermont Public Radio for quite some time.

Re:Global Warming? (1)

robbak (775424) | about 8 years ago | (#15695925)

Actually, it has a large anti-greenhouse effect, well, for something done by one person on one farm, anyway.
Remember that methane is a very effective greenhouse gas. Collecting and burning it exchanges it for much more friendly CO2, as well as replacing coal produced energy.
There is a town in europe (Germany, maybe?) that is running its bus and train fleet on methane.

Re:Global Warming? (2, Informative)

AJWM (19027) | about 8 years ago | (#15696008)

While definetly greener than burning oil this still contributes as much to global warming? Right?

Wrong.

First, you're assuming that greenhouse gases are a significant contributer to global warming. This is not proved, beyond the obvious fact that without any greenhouse effect at all the average temperature of Earth would be around freezing. There is nothing to prove a causal relationship between elevated CO2 levels and warming. Indeed, it could be that warming (perhaps caused by increased solar output) has increased CO2 levels (warmer water holding less dissolved CO2, etc).

Second, even if greenhouse gases were causing global warming, you're assuming that the combustion products of methane (H2O and CO2) are significant greenhouse gases. In fact, methane is a stronger greenhouse gas than CO2 is. Water is actually a stronger greenhouse gas than either by about an order of magnitude, but burning methane (or fossil fuel, for that matter) doesn't significantly add to the atmosphere's H2O load because that's pretty much in equilibrium anyway, between 75% of Earth's surface being open water and the fact that it frequently precipitates out.

That said, reducing dependence on foreign oil is worth doing for other reasons, as is reducing dependence on any fossil fuel as an energy source (waste of a good chemical feedstock).

This is just.... (2, Funny)

Anoraknid the Sartor (9334) | about 8 years ago | (#15695858)

bull shit....

Secret ingredient (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15695861)

The big question now is whether Vermont-based Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream will use power generated from the manure of cows treated with Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone."

So long as it doesn't become the secret ingredient in their barn yard swirl I don't care.

Cow Power....? (0, Redundant)

dartarrow (930250) | about 8 years ago | (#15695869)

This is all bull..

New math? (4, Insightful)

chuckfee (93392) | about 8 years ago | (#15695877)

$0.04 per kwh on top of the regular rates is about 50% higher.
I think someone misplaced a decimal point. I use about 1500
kwh per month. This extra cost would be $60 per month, not $6.

It would be cheaper to pay farmers not to farm than to come
up with kooky schemes like this that pay them twice - once for
their crazy milk subsidies then again to get rid of the methane
gas that it produces.

We might as well run power plants fueled by combusting dollar bills.

Re:New math? (1)

glitch! (57276) | about 8 years ago | (#15695907)

Where I am, the power is just under 4.4 cents per hw/hour from 8AM to 10PM (peak) and 2.4 cents off peak most of the year. (June, July, and August is about 5.2 cents.) While I would certainly welcome clean power, doubling my power bill is a hard pill to swallow. Now if only the IRS allowed the difference in tax credits, you bet!

Re:New math? (1)

tibike77 (611880) | about 8 years ago | (#15695960)

Just read their (CowPower guys) own FAQ page... it's NOT deductible as a donation (was wondering myself a bit earlier).

Re:New math? (1)

stevesliva (648202) | about 8 years ago | (#15696071)

Vermont has expensive electricity, and once the long-term HydroQuebec contracts expire, it will only be more so. Here in Burlington, I'm paying over 6 cents per KWH, without including other fees. CVPS probably has higher rates. I personally think this is a neater dairy subsidy than just making us all pay more for milk, but the problem is that it's just one farm. So go buy some artisan cheese and Ben and Jerries, too.

Re:New math? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15696149)

Vermont has expensive electricity

Holy shit! Are you insane? Just because you don't like your power bill doesn't mean it's expensive. Try paying 11 cents per kWh in California where the summer spends a large amount of time over 100F and the rates aren't less at night.

Re:New math? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15695926)

I use about 1500 kwh per month.
WHAT THE FUCK? Where I live 4000KWh per year is a lot if you live alone.

Dude, is it common over there to be such a power hog? Geez.

Re:New math? (2, Informative)

tibike77 (611880) | about 8 years ago | (#15695954)

One PC operating most of the day (monitor operational say 12h/day, etc) easily "eats" in excess of 1500 kWh/year.
Consider also having a few light bulbs on 4-6 hours a day, a fridge, a washing machine, a refrigerator and so on and you easily get to more than 3000 kWh/year while living alone.

A typical house(hold) of 4 would easily be consuming 500 kWh per month, if not more if you don't bother restraining power usage (power-saving lightbulbs, etc).

Re:New math? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15696014)

A typical house(hold) of 4 would easily be consuming 500 kWh per month

Yeah, so what the hell is the GP doing to use THREE TIMES THAT? Does he use his refrigerator to cool his back yard or something?

1500 kWh/month (1)

tibike77 (611880) | about 8 years ago | (#15696055)

With no idea about what this guy is actually doing, I can tell you that the house I live in right now uses about 1000 kWh/month during summer and up to 1500 kWh/month during winter. What the heck are we (it's 7 people by the way) using so it's that much ? Let's see...

1 "always-on" home server, ~0.2*24*30 = ~144 kWh/month
4 semi-used PCs, ~0.3*12*30 *4 = ~432 kWh/month
2 TVs (~4h/day), 2 refrigerators, 2 washing machines running almost non-stop during afternoons (spin cycle uses up alot of power), I can only assume that's even up to another 400-600 kWh/month
we stay up pretty late most of the time, so kitchen light and other lights in the house are on a long time each day (another ~50 kWh/month, or more)

And during winter (lighting power usage spikes too, as there's just not enough natural light), sometimes the normal heating just isn't enough, so we use electrical radiators when and where needed (the baby is especially sensitive to cold), so we really use up a lot of energy.

I could come up with a lot of other scenarios where a larger household or a small IT company would easily go beyond the 1MWh/month limit.

Re:New math? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15696134)

One PC operating most of the day (monitor operational say 12h/day, etc) easily "eats" in excess of 1500 kWh/year.
Either your math is way off or you are terrible power hogs over there. 1500KWh/year with 12h/day runtime would mean the whole setup eats over 340W. That's a lot even with a monitor.

A lightbulb should never use more than 12W, a fridge not more than 150W etc.

I'm shocked, really.

Re:New math? (1)

StikyPad (445176) | about 8 years ago | (#15695987)

power plants fueled by combusting dollar bills.

GENIUS!

Re:New math? (3, Insightful)

plover (150551) | about 8 years ago | (#15696090)

It would be cheaper to pay farmers not to farm than to come up with kooky schemes like this that pay them twice

The point of subsidies such as this is that it may provide incentive to other "green" energy producers to hook up to the grid. My electric co-op offers a similar sort of deal: I can pay a premium for blocks of 100kWh of wind-generated power per month.

Most of these schemes that I'm familiar with are for otherwise "free" energy: solar or wind power (or now reclaimed methane.) They are trying to offer these producers a limited time subsidy to help offset the startup costs. A 1mW wind generator costs about one million U.S. dollars to get up and running. Unless you get help with the interest up front, it will take quite a while to get that ROI back.

The radio recently reported that my state, Minnesota, published a paper showing that if windmills were erected at all the economically feasible points in the state, our generating capacity would exceed our current consumption by a factor of fourteen. That would mean total independence from fossil fuels for electric production for a long time to come. Just think what that would do towards stabilizing the price of energy, especially when compared to OPEC's cartel.

Remember, the "energy industry" isn't a single entity. The electric power companies have no particular love for the oil or coal companies. (Certainly mine doesn't, as it's a member-owned non-profit co-op.) They're business partners, and nothing more. Being forced to constantly raise their rates to compensate for the costs of fuel and seeing no profit from the increased prices has not instilled friendship. If they can do anything to reduce dependence on fossil fuels, it lowers their costs as much as anybody else's.

Sure, it's "extra" profit for the small energy producers. But it helps reduce dependence on foreign energy, and could eventually replace it at a much more stable price.

Re:New math? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15696105)

How the hell do you use 1500 kWh per month? I run air conditioning all summer, my computer runs 24x7 with a 20" CRT, and I do all my cooking with a microwave and I only use about 300kWh per month. What kind of irresponsible citizen are you?

Remember.. For giving us power, (1)

dartarrow (930250) | about 8 years ago | (#15695878)

.... our cows must be tipped

lame (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15695881)

further entrenching the enslavement of animals

Why pay more ? (4, Insightful)

tibike77 (611880) | about 8 years ago | (#15695884)

Ok, I get the whole "pay a bit more because it's a GoodThing(TM)" concept, but as a marketing strategy it stinks (forgive the pathetic pun).

So let me get this straigth: you (the consumer) enrols to receive a percentage of your "power" from these guys (up to 100% only from them), and all your money (including the extra 4 cent per kWh, no idea how much the actual price per kWh you have, but I personally pay only about 10-15 cent per kWh, so an extra 4 cent would increase my bill easily by 30% or more) and only "markert price" (no idea how that much that is, but definetely way less than what you get charged as end-user) goes directly to the "manufacturer".

In other words, you basically just make a donation to the "cow power" people, but a donation that's not regarded as donation per se (well, it doesn't specify that, I was just assuming).
So what's stopping you from just using regular power and donating as much $$$ as you want directly to the people involved ?

It gets even better... (2, Interesting)

patio11 (857072) | about 8 years ago | (#15695968)

... there is no way you can actually draw power specifically from the farm. Electricity flows into The Grid, it flows out of The Grid, but once its on the Grid it doesn't care whether its coal, nuclear, cow flatulence, whatever -- there are no special ways to flavor an electrical charge. So what you're really doing is making a donation to the Cow Power farm to put a little juice back onto the grid... when they get paid already for doing that (you can, too: most states will let you bill the electric company if you use negative amounts, for example if you install a home solar system).

If you really have your knickers in a twist about global warming take the money you were going to spend on donations to Cow Power and use it on insulation. You'll reduce your heating/cooling costs and decrease your own personal energy consumption, which will have a bigger environmental impact (measured in units of "infintessimally small", of course) than just changing x% of your energy budget from fossil fuels to marginally cleaner methane.

Re:It gets even better... (3, Interesting)

Alfred, Lord Tennyso (975342) | about 8 years ago | (#15696015)

It's true: the electrons are fungible. You're getting plain old electricity from the grid, and paying a premium which goes (more or less) to the cow people.

But the cow people won't produce it for the rates the electric company is willing to pay them. It's more expensive to produce a watt-hour of juice from cow-fart than it is from coal. Without the subsidy they're paid based on the fossil-fuel rates, and they lose money. This is a way for people to say, economically, "Non-fossil fuel power is more important to us than other uses of our money."

In the limit, enough people being willing to pay for it could reduce the amount of coal burned and replace it with methane-burning, which is marginally better for the environment. How much better, as you point out, is entirely debatable, especially relative to other energy-conserving uses of the money. Nonetheless the fact that power is fungible does not alter the fact that people subsidizing the cow-power reduces fossil fuel consumption.

(Or, more likely, reduces coal demand, lowering the price of conventionally-produced power, thus convincing people to leave the lights on all night. Or perhaps putting thousands of coal miners out of work. Or other horrible knock-on effects.)

Re:Why pay more ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15695971)

My guess is that the power itself is pretty close to regular electric prices. What you are paying for to get the green power are the profits the electric companies are loosing to the alternative provider. The most important thing is that the corporation still gets the profit no matter who provides the power. From all I've read there's no reason why this type of power should cost more and if the farm operation is large enough it's cheap for the farmer to produce. Power is a monopoly in this country. Anyone living in California was reminded of that during the Enron profit grab. Go to a cheaper source for power? You can't and they own you. You can put solar cells on your roof or get some wind generators but those are your only options. Power isn't like cable TV these days. There's no competition and that's not likely to change so long as there are lobbist.

Re:Why pay more ? (3, Insightful)

Kadin2048 (468275) | about 8 years ago | (#15696010)

Because unlike just writing some farmer a check, this actually encourages/ensures that they're doing something environmentally important with the money. (Or something that you, the theoretical buyer of said power, thinks is environmentally important.)

If I want to encourage certain behavior -- in this case, the use of Green power -- it makes more sense for me to pay you to do that behavior, than it does for me to just give you some cash for being yourself.

So yes, it's basically a donation to a bunch of farmers, but it's a donation to a bunch of farmers in return for doing something that assumedly you think is important (if you're participating).

Re:Why pay more ? (1)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | about 8 years ago | (#15696053)

Ok, I get the whole "pay a bit more because it's a GoodThing(TM)" concept, but as a marketing strategy it stinks (forgive the pathetic pun).

Just like hybrid cars. Pay more, but bask in the glow of personal 'greenness'.

bah (1)

illuminatedwax (537131) | about 8 years ago | (#15695891)

Forrest Gump did this first.

Bovine Biofuel (2, Interesting)

Onuma (947856) | about 8 years ago | (#15695894)

This is really a mooving story.

But seriously, it's about time people started doing things like this en masse. We waste a shitload of resources we could otherwise make use of on a daily basis (no pun intended). If this catches on and becomes more widespread across the dairy sections of the country, and perhaps the world, people will quickly start looking at how to use other resources to their advantage - how about the methane from other farm animals, or perhaps human waste passing through sewers? Admittedly most will seek profit from it, but it's really what's happening that counts, not why in this circumstance.

The cows are not happy... (1)

pentapenguin (904715) | about 8 years ago | (#15695913)

A Chick-Fil-A [chickfila.com] spokescow just informed me that their "Eat mor chikin!" slogan will be replaced soon with a "Youse mor chikin powr!" slogan due to the cow's products be seized without remuneration.

Re:The cows are not happy... (1)

Wocko (27778) | about 8 years ago | (#15696066)

Shouldn't that be remooneration?

As Robin it would say ... (0)

freaker_TuC (7632) | about 8 years ago | (#15695920)

... Holy cow shit!

WHO RUNS MAINE? (1)

caffeineboy (44704) | about 8 years ago | (#15695928)

MasterBlaster runs Maine.

But seriously, it's pretty cool that a utility is playing friendly with independent energy producers like this. I wonder if the individual farms are paid the premium rate for their renewable energy, or what the deal is.

Way to increase FPS... (4, Funny)

carlmenezes (204187) | about 8 years ago | (#15695935)

Feed the cows lots of beans.

Economy! (1, Troll)

PresidentEnder (849024) | about 8 years ago | (#15695938)

To be honest, I don't care about the environment. I ride my bike because it's cheap, not because it saves trees and whales and penguins (or, for that matter, humans).

Given the way market forces work, it wouldn't surprise me if this eventually fell to a price comparable with regular power, and stopped billing seperately. I mean, seriously, what else are they going to do with this stuff?

Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (1)

solosaint (699000) | about 8 years ago | (#15695947)

dam, that stuff is nasty, so glad the poster was aware of it, more people need to know its effects

Re:Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (1)

The Hobo (783784) | about 8 years ago | (#15696116)

I never even found out about this until I came to the US (as I am from Canada, where this stuff [wikipedia.org] is banned), but I notice here that a lot of milk producers put "from cows not treated with rBST"

Though I'm usually not too worried about this kind of stuff, I ingest a lot of milk (1-1.33 L or 0.94-1.4 quarts) a day. I've found one brand I like and I just stick with it, it happens to have that 'from cows not..' label on it. I also remember when Monsanto sued a Canadian farmer [wikipedia.org] when their patented wheat ended up contaminating a farmer's field, and they sued him for using their product without paying for it. There's an interesting bit under the last link I posted..

Set up a generator at the White House! (5, Funny)

Eternal Vigilance (573501) | about 8 years ago | (#15695950)

The Bush Administration emissions could power the entire planet!

(And who knew Al Gore had such incredible ecological foresight in not contesting the 2000 election?)

Dirty Fuel? (2, Interesting)

uarch (637449) | about 8 years ago | (#15695951)

I generally have better things to do than read up about burning cow poo but I'm curious about one thing...

I'm assuming this is marketed towards people who want some sort of "green energy" powering their homes. Is this really a clean(er) fuel source?

Sure, burning your favorite fossil fuel on a large scale isn't exactly clean. It is however heavily regulated and uses countless filters & scrubbers to clean up most of the nasty by-products. I'd be tempted to believe that a random milk farmer burning a few tons of cow manure in the back yard would be worse for the environment.

Re:Dirty Fuel? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15696030)

A very late response but... they are not burning the manure. It just sits there releasing methane all day into the air, further polluting the world. Capturing and burning the methane actually helps the situation by both providing power as well as keeping that nasty gas out of the atmosphere.

Re:Dirty Fuel? (5, Insightful)

aprilsound (412645) | about 8 years ago | (#15696044)

Burning methane is better than letting it escape. See [wikipedia.org] Burning methane produces 1 CO2 molecule per molecule methane, but methane is 23 times worse as a greenhouse gas.

Also, its methane obtained from cow manure. I imagine the farmers keep the cow manure and uses to fertilize the grass.

Re:Dirty Fuel? (1)

Draka (982617) | about 8 years ago | (#15696048)

1. Burning methane is a lot cleaner than burning coal (assuming that cow poo produces little amts of other sulfur, nitrogen contaning gases). This comparison of SOx and NOx emissions with coal/natural gas powered plants will get interesting if we consider the emissions (frm equipment) handling the cow poo into and out of the reaction vessel (or whatever produces methane)...

2. as others in other threads 've mentioned, it certainly is carbon neutral since the CO2 is produced from plant material which has been renewed (i.e. more carbon from the atmosphere has been fixed as plant material) ..

has anybody compared SOx adn NOx emissions of methane from cow manure to coal powered powerplants (using a life cycle assessment)?

Re:Dirty Fuel? (1)

Nefarious Wheel (628136) | about 8 years ago | (#15696091)

In India, cow pats are a major fuel. No ...ah, kidding.

B&J already have done something like this... (3, Interesting)

jpellino (202698) | about 8 years ago | (#15696000)

I have a commemorative "Vermont's Swinest" Ben and Jerry's T-shirt (complete with holstein styled pigs), they made them when they started a deal to supply a local pig farm (I believe near the Waterbury plant) with milk waste.
The milk waste would be fed to the pigs along with the ususal feed, I don't recall where the pig waste / methane was headed.
IIRC The first three pigs, by contract, were to be named "Ben", "Jerry" and "Ed" in honor of Ben Cohen, Jerry Greenfield and Ed Stanek - the Vermont EPA official who brokered the deal.
When I worked on the old NSF Student Originated Studies program, one of the 1980 projects out of Iowa was to use manure methane to fire a still, ferment leftover corn waste into alcohol, feed the leftovers from the fermentation back into the pig feed, and use the alcohol in the machinery. Decent efficiencies in the pilot, but a hard sell to the farmers, as they needed smaller farms to go in together to get the delta-t they needed for peak efficiency, and it smacked of big entities twisting little family farm arms. In fact despite the NSF badge, it was just a bunch of undergrads, but still no sale.

So Much For... (1)

Joebert (946227) | about 8 years ago | (#15696021)

I don't think the cows are gonna like this, what will they do on the weekends with nothing for mushrooms to grow in ?

Effect of goods... (1)

RyanFenton (230700) | about 8 years ago | (#15696042)

...if it takes 10 calories of gasoline to make one calorie of crop, and that food is used to feed cows, which use more gasoline, this doesn't sound like too much of a sustainable bit of agriculture.

Of course, that gasoline would be used anyway in the production of these crops, milk, meat and byproducts, and that gasoline can be replaced by some other energy storage medium... but it seems to me that the onus is still on replacing gasoline and other fossil fuels, not burning whatever waste we can find and calling ourselves carbon nuetral-by-proxy.

That, and the removal of potentially massive ammounts of manure from our agricultural system doesn't sound like a sound investment in a sustainable agriculture either. But that's a consideration further down the path of long-term sustainability, and a fairly minor one in the current scope.

Ryan Fenton

Fact check (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15696068)

I love all the negativity. People might like to do a little research before they go farmer bashing on this one. From what I read digester systems for a fair sized farm, these days about 700 cows, runs between a hundred and two hundred grand. An operation of that size produces enough power for the farm and 70 to 100 homes. Outside of the intial investment it's mostly labor harvesting the fuel source. If an average household electric bill was $150 a month that would mean 12 to 15 grand a month. I think you'll find why the electricity is more expensive is the the farmer gets a percentage of the power sale. The bulk of the money goes to the power provider not the farmer. If a 100% went to the farmer I think you'd see more of them dancing in the streets. The power companies know you'll pay more for green power so they charge you more for it no matter the cost. Everyone seems quick to blame the greedy farmers that are doing a good thing instead of the real villians the blood sucking power corporations.

oh come on now (1)

aendeuryu (844048) | about 8 years ago | (#15696070)

Who fact checked this story? It's udderly ridiculous.

Estimate is way too low. (1)

gpw213 (691600) | about 8 years ago | (#15696104)

Where I live, the power company has a similar plan where you can sign up for "green power" from wind and solar installations. This costs an extra 1.5 cents per kWh, and they estimate that to be about $7 per month for the average household. (And that tracks pretty well with my own power bill.)

And yes, they freely admit that it all mixes together in the power grid. But they buy power from the "green" providers based on the usage of the customers signed up for the program. This means they have to burn less fossil fuel to run their own generators.

If you are curious, you can look at their program information here [siliconvalleypower.com]

subsidize that sh*t ! (1)

cathector (972646) | about 8 years ago | (#15696111)

Taking in arguments about the actual $/kWh cost to consumers along with notions of environmental foresight, it seems clear to me that technology like this should be subsidized. Plus wide adoption will naturally increase the efficiency of the technology, so the cost-to-subsidize will decrease over the years.

Uhh... (1)

DavidD_CA (750156) | about 8 years ago | (#15696117)

I'm all for alternative energy sources but this is a little nuts. Even if it really is only a few bucks more every month, I really don't want to "donate" money to my neighbors who are already pretty well off.

Granted not every farmer is sitting pretty, but most of the farmers I know that have the money to invest in methane-harvesting technology are alreaddy pretty wealthy. And this is just another way to get them higher up on the list.

I'm far more likely to support my farmers by going to the local Farmer's Market. At least then I'm helping a lot of different farmers, and not just the rich ones.

Re:Uhh... (1)

beeblebrox (16781) | about 8 years ago | (#15696137)

I'm far more likely to support my farmers by going to the local Farmer's Market.

The nuclear generation industry sends its regards, together with the coal folks. Various worldwide petro- (and natural_gas-) dictators are indirectly saying thanks to you too.

But you stuck it to the plutocrats and that's what matters.

Sorry? What was that? (1)

dupper (470576) | about 8 years ago | (#15696132)

Who runs Bartertown?

But do they warn you about... (1)

wildsurf (535389) | about 8 years ago | (#15696139)

the Brownouts.
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