Saturday, February 16, 2008

Poop Power

Don't think I'm weird because this is the second post in a row on the general topic of feces. Hey, I'm just trying to live out a calling. My "engineering research" for the last few years is focused on finding ways to provide electricity to parts of the developing world. Sometimes that's with solar power, sometimes it's with wind power, sometimes it's with small hydropower, and now I am exploring poop power.

I have been reading up on the production of "biogas", the methane-based gas from rotting organic matter, and it is beginning to look feasible as an electricity source. But I need to learn more. Not having any livestock of my own, I asked M if I could build a prototype in the back yard and fuel it with, how do I say this, output from family members. She said no. Poop belongs in the toilet, she says. Not out in the back yard where it might spill or morph into the creature from the E. coli lagoon.

So my research is still in the "paper phase". By my calculations (yes, I've been running the numbers on pig poop) the manure from 40 hogs can provide a rural village with 1000 W of electric power for over 4.6 hours a day. This means, if each family has a single, compact fluorescent bulb requiring 27 W, we should be able to light 37 homes for two hours in the morning, and two and a half in the evening. This usage is consistent with families I have spoken to in rural Honduras.

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