Arla creates poo-powered batteries to highlight AD potential

Arla has created AA rechargeable ‘Cow Patteries’ to highlight the potential of manure-based renewable energy.

The recent gas crisis has seen global wholesale prices soar, leading to concerns and questions about the cost and source of future supplies.

A group of farmers from dairy cooperative Arla have found a novel way of showing the largely untapped potential of waste by turning cow manure into ‘cow power’ to run their farms. To showcase the possibilities, Arla’s ‘Cow Patteries’ - rechargeable batteries - are being displayed as a potential UK renewable energy solution.

The focus on renewable energy sources has historically centred on wind and solar, but to effectively use all resources available, the scale-up of anaerobic digestion (AD) sites across the UK could provide new opportunities to power homes and transport across the nation.

AD also has the benefit of generating a by-product that can be used as a natural fertiliser enabling farmers to enrich the land and close the loop on their farms. With over 1.2 million tonnes of cow slurry available in the UK each year from Arla’s 2,240 farms alone, the farmer-owned cooperative could generate enough green energy to power 4% of UK households.

“There is so much potential for innovations such as AD to contribute to the UK’s renewable energy needs while reducing farm emissions with something readily available on our farms – poo!” said Arla farmer Neil Ridgway.

“On my farm, we already use the energy produced from cow slurry to power our entire estate, but this could go so much further. We are even able to use the by-product of the process as a natural fertiliser on our land and thereby closing the loop – it’s a win-win situation!”

Graham Wilkinson, group agriculture director at Arla, said the farming sector has “only just scratched the surface” following its poo-powered transport trials last year.

“A small number of our farmer-owners are already turning cow poo into energy,” said Wilkinson. “If the government and the energy industry could see the potential, the scaling-up of cow power could be a game-changer for the UK’s renewable energy supply while also helping reduce emissions in farming.”

Ridgway concluded: “My farm already produces enough cow poo power to keep the lights on across my business and the local community, helping us on our way to becoming carbon net-zero.

“I’d love to be buying ‘Cow Patteries’ in the future as they really highlight the potential in this natural resource! With the right support and infrastructure maybe we could turn that possibility into a reality.”

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