New research from Hewlett-Packard Laboratories indicates that you can get more than milk and steak from cattle. The unlikely combination of cattle manure and the heat output of data centers can create an economic, environmentally sustainable operation.
Manure from a 10,000-head dairy farm could fulfill the power requirements of a 1 MW data center, with power left over to support other needs on the farm.
Heat generated by the data center could increase the efficiency of the anaerobic digestion of animal waste, resulting in the production of methane. Methane can be used to generate power for the data center.
“The idea of using animal waste to generate energy has been around for centuries, with manure being used every day in remote villages to generate heat for cooking,” says Tom Christian, principal research scientist in HP’s Sustainable IT Ecosystem Lab. “The new idea that we’re presenting in this research is to create a symbiotic relationship between farms and the IT ecosystem that can benefit the farm, the data center, and the environment.”
A medium-sized dairy farm with 10,000 cows produces about 200,000 metric tons of manure per year; about 70 percent of the energy in the methane generated via anaerobic digestion could be used for data center powering and cooling.
Read the full research paper at www.hpl.hp.com/news/2010/apr-jun/HP_ASME_PAPER.pdf.