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10,000 Cows Can Power 1,000 Servers 221

CWmike writes "Reducing energy consumption in data centers, particularly with the prospect of a federal carbon tax, is pushing vendors to explore an ever-growing range of ideas. HP engineers say that biogas may offer a fresh alternative energy approach for IT managers. Researchers at HP Labs presented a paper (download PDF) on using cow manure from dairy farms and cattle feedlots and other 'digested farm waste' to generate electricity to an American Society of Mechanical Engineers conference, held this week. In it, the research team calculates that 'a hypothetical farm of 10,000 dairy cows' could power a 1 MW data center — or on the order of 1,000 servers. One trend that makes the idea of turning organic waste into usable power for data centers is the moves by several firms to build facilities in rural locations, where high-speed networks allow them to take advantage of the cost advantages of such areas. But there are some practical problems, not the least of which is connecting a data center to the cows. If it does happen, the move could call for a new take on plug and play: plug and poo."
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10,000 Cows Can Power 1,000 Servers

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  • by hcpxvi ( 773888 ) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @04:06AM (#32276000)
    methane was a bad gas last week?
    Still is if you release it into the atmosphere, especially if it came from somewhere where it has been locked up for centuries.
    As fuel, though, it can be a good thing, especially if you got it by having some grass suck the carbon out of the air before using a cow to convert that carbon into an easily-usable form such as methane.
  • by ArsenneLupin ( 766289 ) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @04:39AM (#32276146)

    how big would the torus have to be to have reasonable days and nights and eathlike gravity?

    a radius of 42000km

  • by vikingpower ( 768921 ) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @05:48AM (#32276412) Homepage Journal in Germany and Austria, where a lot of larger farms invested into a biogas plant; they sell the electric power they generate to the national grid, at slightly preferential rates. One large farm, my last client, runs a 500 kW plant, without anyone making a fuss or being amazed about it.
  • by chudnall ( 514856 ) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @09:28AM (#32277912) Homepage Journal

    The raw material is still there after the methane is extracted. It's still good fertilizer.

  • by osvenskan ( 1446645 ) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @10:09AM (#32278674)

    I've long wondered about the short-sightedness of modern farming practices where farmers need to buy both seeds and fertilizer each year to produce a crop, when once upon a time in the not-to-distant past, both were free, and in the present, the abundance of animal waste has become an environmental problem.

    Wendell Berry [] said it very nicely:

    Once plants and animals were raised together on the same farm -- which therefore neither produced unmanageable surpluses of manure, to be wasted and to pollute the water supply, nor depended on such quantities of commercial fertilizer. The genius of America farm experts is very well demonstrated here: they can take a solution and divide it neatly into two problems.

    The Unsettling of America : Culture & Agriculture (1996), p. 62

  • Re:matrix (Score:3, Informative)

    by CAIMLAS ( 41445 ) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @12:01PM (#32280578) Homepage

    Now I'm just waiting for someone to post the numbers of gallons of water a beef-eating sysadmin uses. (Note: such numbers are largely crap, short of the ones for cooling a datacenter.)

    This is an innovation and an improvement. It's not something to be poo-pooed. If we can make better use of the resources we have, everyone wins.

    I should note that I'm not for industrial farming: free-range meats are by far preferable, largely because they make better use of land. But if we're going to farm industrially, making better use of cattle barns seems like a good step in reducing ecological impact - doesn't it?

    As far as the whole "meat is wasteful", something many anti-meat people don't realize is that most cattle are raised on open land which isn't suitable for anything else. We're talking semi-arid land which is barely able to support native grasses - 10 thousand acres per head of cattle.

    These ranchers only then "finish" their cattle for a week or so to fatten them for market. This land is being put to good use: you'd be hard pressed to "grow" anything, unless we're talking about scrub brush. Not every locale in the US is the Shenandoah Valley.

Nondeterminism means never having to say you are wrong.