Hewlett-Packard engineers say in a research paper that a dairy farmer could rent out land and power to technology companies and recoup an investment in the waste-to-fuel systems within two years.
Chandrakant D. Patel, the director of H.P.’s sustainable information technology laboratory said that “IT and manure have a symbiotic relationship.” Which is a bit like saying its products are full of crap but in a polite way.
He added that having these data centres locally will give farmers a new opportunity.
Companies have historically tended to build their large computing centres in or near large cities and industries. As this practice has continued over the years, it has become difficult for companies building the largest data centers to find enough cheap electricity and real estate to meet their needs.
The rise of higher-speed data transfer networks, however, has given technology companies a chance to move farther from large populations and still be able to get information to them as quickly as they need it. So companies like Google, Yahoo, Amazon.com and Microsoft have been engaged in a mad dash to find spots in the United States that have plenty of electricity and land.
The HP report suggests that rather than being an alternative energy convenience, this approach could benefit companies operating in countries like China and India that need to find an economical way to power their computing centers.
To make biogas, a farmer needs to buy gear that runs the manure through an anaerobic digestion process, which results in a large quantity of methane that can be used as a natural gas or diesel replacement.
Apparently your average cow makes enough waste per day to power a 100-watt light bulb.
HP said that 10,000 cows could fuel a one-megawatt data center, which would be the equivalent of a small computing centre used by a bank.
“The cows will never replace the hydroelectric power used by a lot of these data centres. But there is interest in biogas, and this presents another way to make manure pay.”