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Earth Power Science Technology

Toyota's New Power Plant Will Create Clean Energy From Manure (usatoday.com) 75

schwit1 shares a report from Futurism: Japanese automobile giant Toyota is making some exciting moves in the realm of renewable, clean energy. The company is planning to build a power plant in California that turns the methane gas produced by cow manure into water, electricity, and hydrogen. The project, known as the Tri-Gen Project, was unveiled at this year's Los Angeles Auto Show. The plant, which will be located at the Port of Long Beach in California, will be "the world's first commercial-scale 100% renewable power and hydrogen generation plant," writes USA Today. Toyota is expecting the plant to come online in about 2020.

The plant is expected to have the capability to provide enough energy to power 2,350 average homes and enough fuel to operate 1,500 hydrogen-powered vehicles daily. The company is estimating the plant to be able to produce 2.35 MW of electricity and 1.2 tons of hydrogen each day. The facility will also be equipped with one of the largest hydrogen fueling stations in the world. Toyota's North America group vice president for strategic planning, Doug Murtha, says that the company "understand[s] the tremendous potential to reduce emissions and improve society."

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Toyota's New Power Plant Will Create Clean Energy From Manure

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  • Clean energy? (Score:2, Informative)

    How is this "clean" energy? Cows are well known as one of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions [independent.co.uk]. How many cows are required to support this plant and are their greenhouse gas emissions factored in when figuring out how "clean" the energy is? If we have to start maintaining large herds of cattle to support these powerplants this is probably not a good thing.
    • Re:Clean energy? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by RhettLivingston ( 544140 ) on Saturday December 09, 2017 @02:33AM (#55705487) Journal
      The cows exist either way. This will take waste that would normally generate methane, collect that methane, and destroy it instead of releasing it. It has a potential of being a reduction versus the existing system of letting the manure release its methane into the atmosphere. Whether that potential is met would depend on a lot of factors. There is always the danger that the carbon costs of collecting the manure, building the plant, etc. will be greater than the savings. That happens often in these schemes.
      • Re:Clean energy? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Saturday December 09, 2017 @02:48AM (#55705509)

        The cows exist either way.

        True, but they don't exist in Long Beach. The poop will have to be hauled in. This sounds like a publicity stunt rather than a real attempt to help the environment.

        This will take waste that would normally generate methane

        A cow patty decaying in a field does not generate methane. It only generates methane if it decays in anaerobic conditions.

        • Re:Clean energy? (Score:5, Interesting)

          by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Saturday December 09, 2017 @03:24AM (#55705567) Journal

          True, but they don't exist in Long Beach.

          There are about a zillion cattle ranches within 200 miles of Long Beach. Until I moved out here to the Central Coast, I had no idea just how big ranching is here.

          If you drive Hwy 101 or Hwy 5 from San Luis Obispo (where I live) to Long Beach, you will see tons of cattle and horses. Don't do the drive today, though, because fires have closed down 101 through Ventura and Hwy 5 through Castalc Junction. I know these things because I'm supposed to catch a plane at LAX tomorrow and ain't nothing moving through there. Not even Amtrak, because the smoke from the fire is so hazardous. I may have to take the Surfliner up to SFO to fly out.

          • There are about a zillion cattle ranches within 200 miles of Long Beach. Until I moved out here to the Central Coast, I had no idea just how big ranching is here.

            Real live cattle ranches aren't all that helpful for this kind of operation, though. What you need is a feedlot, preferably a really nasty and high-population one. In that case, the shit is highly concentrated, and easy to sluice into tanks or bags or whatever you're collecting the shit in.

            • Real live cattle ranches aren't all that helpful for this kind of operation, though. What you need is a feedlot, preferably a really nasty and high-population one.

              That's a good point. From what I can tell, the cattle ranches here in California are more like spas for livestock. However, the beef here is really good and surprisingly cheap. I couldn't believe that the same cut of beef is less expensive in Central California than it is in Houston, Texas, but it's true.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by cbraescu1 ( 180267 )

          This sounds like a publicity stunt

          Are you joking??? Of course this is a publicity stunt. Toyota is in the business of manufacturing cars, not environmental cleansing. As generating hydrogen and electricity this way costs significantly higher than just buying them off the grid (electricity) or splitting water (hydrogen), it is obvious the only reason Toyota is doing it is for the PR reasons - especially in California.

          • by HiThere ( 15173 )

            In addition to the other response...
            Toyota make lots of things, not just cars. If this catches on they'll be quite willing to make it (subcontracting it out?) and sell it to others.

      • The cows exist either way.

        Yes, but that still does not make this "clean" energy. If a coal-fired plant uses an improved boiler that reduces its emissions that does not make it a clean energy source it just makes it a less damaging one. I'd argue that this is exactly what this is - it might be better than what we do now but there is no way you can call this clean given the emissions required to produce what it needs to run.

        • Are you really such an moron?
          Of course it is clean energy.

          Either the manur rotts on the fields or wherever and creates CH4 and CO2 or you burn it in a gas plant, and create the same amount of CO2 in the end.

          • by HiThere ( 15173 )

            More, methane is a stronger greenhouse gas than CO2, even though shorter lived. I believe the half-life of a methane molecule in the atmosphere is supposed to be around 20 years...then something eats it and turns it into CO2.

          • Are you really such an moron? Of course it is clean energy.

            Either the manur rotts on the fields or wherever and creates CH4 and CO2 or you burn it in a gas plant, and create the same amount of CO2 in the end.

            You are underselling the benefits here. Methane released into the atmosphere stays methane for about a century on average, and causes 25 times as much solar heat trapping as does the same amount of carbon as CO2. So this is a much "cleaner" (environmentally beneficial) situation than simply letting that manure rot and release the methane.

      • by Topwiz ( 1470979 )

        There are plenty cows in California to support this. For many years we have been doing this in Vermont, it is called Cow Power. The manure power generators are installed right on the farm. The hay that cows eat is not completely digested. The left over hay from the process is suitable for use as bedding which saves the farmer money.

        • by HiThere ( 15173 )

          My guess is this isn't quite the same process, but it could be. Or this could all be PR fluff. It's still probably a worthwhile thing to do.

          OTOH, I understood that processing manure this way lost a lot of the nutrients which would otherwise (eventually!) be returned to the soil. But eventually can take a long time, especially if you don't have decent native dung beetles. (Australia had to import some IIRC.)

    • Re:Clean energy? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Dogboy88k ( 1376491 ) on Saturday December 09, 2017 @03:52AM (#55705609)

      You are a complete idiot.
      Next thing you're going to complain about the number of trees required to support a paper recycling plant.

      • Planting more trees to create more paper and support more recycling is a good thing - it removes carbon or, at worst, is carbon neutral. This proposed plant relies on one of the worst carbon-emitting industries that exists. It is not the same thing.
        • by tsa ( 15680 )

          Paper is not made of trees.

          • Paper is not made of trees.

            Oh, really? [wikipedia.org] Some paper may contain fibres from other sources but a lot of paper comes from wood which is why there are pulp mills in places known for harvesting timber like Canada. They literally make it from trees.

            • by tsa ( 15680 )

              I've been hearing that paper isn't made from trees for quite some time now. Trees give rather coarse paper, while paper made from cotton and other textile fibers is smoother, is always the argument. But maybe it's a local thing. I live in the Netherlands, where there are not many trees around but loads of paper is used. It's probably cheaper to make paper from used clothes (many people here throw their clothes away after one year of use because they are then out of fashion) rather than wood.

              • Canada exports a lot of wood and paper products so I would expect that Europe gets a lot from there or other, similar locations given the high price of land in Europe and the vast areas of wilderness filled with renewable trees in places like Canada. High quality, archive paper is made from cotton and other fibres because it does not contain lignin and so will not degrade with time. However paperback books, printer paper, newspapers, tissues, paper/cardboard packaging etc. are almost certainly pure wood pro
  • The port of Long Beach is well known for it's large herds of cattle. Sounds like an episode of Futurama.
    • The port of Long Beach is well known for it's large herds of cattle.

      California is the fourth largest cattle-producing state.

      Also, there aren't any uranium mines in Long Beach, but I bet you wouldn't have the same objection to a nuclear power plant here.

  • Yawn. Holler at me when you can make cows from renewable, clean energy.
  • by thygate ( 1590197 ) on Saturday December 09, 2017 @03:29AM (#55705583)
    will it have a constant production of 2.35MW ? or will it produce 2.35MWh a day ? Huge difference. "The company is estimating the plant to be able to produce 2.35 MW of electricity and 1.2 tons of hydrogen each day." I would expect a unit in Wh in this sentence, a unit of energy, not a unit of power.
    • Sounds like the average output is the right answer since the former in total energy per day is about 1.4 times the latter. If it were 2.35 MWh of energy per day, there'd be vastly less electricity being generated than hydrogen, which doesn't ring quite true for biogas stuff.
    • will it have a constant production of 2.35MW ? or will it produce 2.35MWh a day ? Huge difference. "The company is estimating the plant to be able to produce 2.35 MW of electricity and 1.2 tons of hydrogen each day." I would expect a unit in Wh in this sentence, a unit of energy, not a unit of power.

      THey're both units of power, effectively. 2.35 MW is a unit of power and 1.2 tons of hydrogen per day can be easily interpreted as a unit of power, since they're interested in teh stored energy in hydrogen and a

    • The real problem here is that 2.35MW it peanuts. Half a dozen 18-wheeler engines hooked to generators could do that much.

      Let me know when they put together a 500MW power plant using these techniques....

    • I read it as:

      able to produce [2.35 MW of electricity] and [1.2 tons of hydrogen each day]

      not as:

      able to produce { [2.35 MW of electricity] and [1.2 tons of hydrogen] } each day

      As a FYI, ambiguous phrases like this can be made less ambiguous simply by rearranging the text as:

      able to produce 1.2 tons of hydrogen each day and 2.35 MW of electricity

  • I mean,

    1) You have to "fabricate" the manure (it takes a lot of resources to make and the "creation" process does contamine)

    2) Instead of fertilizing the soil to cultivate food for humans (I guess the "half the planet earthlings are starving" hasn't take its toll in their minds) they prefer to burn the manure.

    Win-Win! Wait... ain't that right, is it?

    • Are they retarted?

      No. Are you?

      1) You have to "fabricate" the manure (it takes a lot of resources to make and the "creation" process does contamine)

      That is a byproduct of people farming cows. The manure is going to be fabricated either way.

      2) Instead of fertilizing the soil to cultivate food for humans (I guess the "half the planet earthlings are starving" hasn't take its toll in their minds) they prefer to burn the manure.

      My guess is that the ash would contain all the minerals except possibly nitrogen alre

      • (I guess the "half the planet earthlings are starving" hasn't take its toll in their minds)

        Possibly because it's false. No, there are not 3.5 billion people starving right now.

        There aren't even that many who fit the (rather generous) definition of "hungry" commonly used to describe the problem.

        By the by, the number you're looking for for "hunger" is ~800 million (11% or so). The number of people starving is a very small fraction of that, but the exact value is unknown (there are places still that don't

      • Yes they are somewhat retarded, the amount of energy produced is laughable, this is not a solution at larg scale level. And the most important part of "fertilizer" for soil is the nitrogen which the ash won't have, though it would have potassium and some other minerals. Other ways manure helps soil is via moisture retension and carbon (up in smoke).

        In short, poop is more useful as poop.

    • "Half the planet starving" was perhaps 40 - 30 years ago ...
      Welcome in the year 2017.

  • Biogas (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nospam007 ( 722110 ) * on Saturday December 09, 2017 @05:00AM (#55705683)

    From Wikipedia.

    Germany had 5905 Biogas plants in 2010 .
    The electricity supply was approximately 12.8 TWh, which was 12.6% of the total generated renewable electricity then.

    I don't see a real difference here, but since I'm not a newbie I can't possibly RTFA.

    • The difference is that in Germany, Biogas plants get to sell their electricity for a guaranteed price. Yes, it's a subsidy. But IMHO not worse than subsidies for other power plants, such as Hinkley Point in Great Britain. In that case, a new nuclear power plant is going to get a subsidy.

    • Biogas is usually generated from landfills. When a landfill is closed, it's capped off with layers impermeable to water (to prevent rain from leaching the contents of the landfill into the soil) and to air (to prevent the smell from disturbing people occupying whatever you build on top of it). A system of pipes and ducts is constructed around the outside which collects the gases produced by the decomposing trash (mostly methane) for use in power generation applications. (Also because methane is a worse g
      • Actually in germany we distinguish between bio gas, which comes from manure and decomposting plants and gas from landfills.
        Gas from landfills uou are required by law to collect, and usually it is piped intoo the natural gas grid.
        Bio gas plants are usuall run by farmers because they can be combined into virtual power plants and provide reserve energy, which makes good money.

    • Yes but this is Toyota! It's in 'Murika! It's on Slashdot!

  • The real progress will be when the renewable energy becomes cheap and ubiquitous, and our farms are powered by it. Then....

    Then... we will make manure from clean energy!

  • Trumpâ(TM)s Twitter Tweets could be used as some kind of super fuel?

    What if we run this system inside the Trump Reality Distortion Field... Will it produce enough power to keep Bitcoin mining economical?

  • Someone discovered that modern reporters don't know that methane comes from decaying organic material, like cow dung! Now THAT made this a headline story.

    See also India coaldung fuel balls, India. Just in case a reporter out there wants to get a scoop on what to do with the leavin's.

  • Making energy from dung is a big step forward from making cars out of dung

  • But what may occur if, perchance, the manure strikes the ventilation equipment? Has anyone considered this possibility? It even sounds like an almost catchy catch phrase.

Murphy's Law, that brash proletarian restatement of Godel's Theorem. -- Thomas Pynchon, "Gravity's Rainbow"

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