Dutch dairy cows to generate clean energy from muck

The Netherlands has over 2.5 million dairy cows each producing a substantial quantity of manure. But what to do with all that muck. Dutch Minister of Economic Affairs Henk Kamp opened the first mono-fermentation plant in the Province of Friesland this week.. 

As the energy sector uses less and less fossil fuels, the proportion of greenhouse gasses produced by livestock increases. However, manure can be used to generate energy while at the same time reducing CO2 emissions from the dairy industry. The Dutch government has set aside 150 million euros for Cooperative Jumpstart which supports farmers who want to diversify into this area of the energy industry.

Green gas

The mono-fermentation plant produces both heat and biogas from manure. This biogas is then upgraded into green gas and supplied to the natural gas system. A single farm can supply 40 homes with sufficient energy and gas to run a household. This contributes to the government’s target to generate 14 percent renewable energy by 2020. At the same time, emissions of greenhouse gasses like methane are reduced. The residual product will be  reused to substitute artificial fertilizer, which means nothing goes to waste.

Circular economy

Dairy company Royal FrieslandCampina which processes of milk from 70 percent of Dutch farmers says it will buy the energy and gas produced by mono-fermentation. The new technology means that dairy farming in the future can become much more sustainable and will be part of the transition to a circular economy in which almost all waste is reused in one way or another.