Under Mayor Gregor Robertson’s leadership, the vision for Vancouver has been tinted green recently – especially with the approval of last summer’s Greenest City 2020 plan. While the city introduces guidelines, policies and grants to help make Vancouver a world leader in green building, a local company called Cowpower BC wants people – and businesses – to focus on greening their energy bill.
Cowpower BC is a not-for-profit sustainability service that pretty much does what it sounds like: it helps BC farmers turn cow manure into clean, renewable electricity. Farmers use waste-to-energy systems, called anaerobic digesters, which capture the methane from manure and convert it into electricity that can be injected right onto BC’s energy grid. That’s right – you can power your home, business or event with cow poop!
The basic premise behind Cowpower is to capture a source of energy that is not only being unused, but also actually harming the environment. Currently, the majority of dairy and beef farms in BC are producing a tremendous amount of waste daily – the approximation is about 120 lbs per cow. This waste has traditionally caused a lot of headaches for the farmers and anyone in the surrounding area. Not only do the farms significantly contribute to greenhouse gas emissions from methane release, but also alarms have been raised regarding oxygen-reducing bacteria in runoff, effecting aquatic ecosystems. Using anaerobic digesters, recycling and reusing the manure for a more environmentally friendly purpose address both of these problems.
Anaerobic digesters are not a new concept, and not even new in Canada. Ontario already has multiple sites that use this technology successfully, and there are hundreds operating in the United States and in Europe. However, despite most of Vancouverites and British Columbians considering themselves placed on the greener side of the spectrum, Cowpower has only successfully built one digester that is in operation today, converting manure from 55 dairy cows and waste milk fat from a local food processor. This farm, Bakerview EcoDairy, in Abbotsford, reduces its greenhouse gas emissions by over 150 tonnes a year.
However, Cowpower BC has an ambitious goal of helping 50 farmers convert manure from 30,000 cows into clean, renewable electricity to power 13,000 BC businesses, homes and events – and the more users that register with Cowpower, the more digesters can be built. Their greenhouse gas reduction target is 45,000 tonnes a year.
Want to tell your friends that you’re using poop power? It’s actually pretty simple – visit www.cowpowerbc.com/getcowpowered and register. It only takes about 5 minutes, and you don’t need to change any agreements or ask permission from BC Hydro or your building manager.