At last, bullshit has a practical use. This season, Killington, Vermont’s K-1 Express gondola will be powered by reprocessed cow manure. The initiative is being run through Green Mountain Power’s Cow Power program, which every day collects some 300,000 gallons of cow pies from 10,000 cows at 13 state dairy farms.
Here’s how it works, according to Killington:
Perfected over the last ten years, the GMP Cow Power process is very simple. Farms collect cow manure throughout the day, mixing it with wash water from the milking equipment which is then pumped into an anaerobic digester. The slurry flows through a digester for about three weeks at 100 degrees Fahrenheit allowing bacteria to convert the manure into biogas, about 60% methane gas and 40% carbon dioxide. The biogas is then delivered to a modified natural gas engine, which drives an electric generator to create electricity. Finally, the energy generated is fed onto the GMP electrical system which ultimately powers the K-1 Express Gondola.
The left over manure in the digester does not go to waste; it is separated into solid and liquid portions. The liquid portion is used as enhanced fertilizer and the solids, consisting of plant fibers including grass, corn stalk fibers, grain hulls, etc. can replace sawdust as bedding for the cows.
Unless Killington were to build a conversion plant dedicated to the ski area, it’s impossible for the poop power to go directly into the running of the lift; rather, it goes into Green Mountain Power’s grid. If there aren’t enough BS-based kilowatt-hours available for use, GMP buys Renewable Energy Certificates that support solar, wind, and small hydro.