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We'll Always Have Waste

F.Y. Teng | Aug. 3, 2010
A discussion of the reality of data centres powered by manure from dairy cows, and the potential of human waste as a renewable source of energy.

The other thing in India is that there is a lot of indigenous talent and ideas in building this kind of plants, whats called global gas plants. As you know, in villages in India this is not a new thing. We are not saying that the whole production of methane from biomass is a new thing. Its been around for a long time, certainly in India.

How long?
I have first hand experience. I lived in a village in Gujarat. As you know, Gujarat is the state just north of Mumbai, Maharashtra. In our state, we used to collect cow dung, dry it with straw and use it as fuel. Initially, we used it for small tasks such as for cooking. Then in the 1970s, our neighbour put in a global gas plant and the manure from the few buffaloes they had was sufficient to provide cooking for a community for the whole day.

But then electricity came to the village in the late 1970s and the people abandoned the old global gas plant.

My grandfather used to use it but today, with the availability of electricity at the village, people ignore it!

What I think will happen, though, is the increasing demand for electricity coming from IT and other places seeing immense growth in the nation will drive the return of such alternative sources.

I recently received e-mail from a friend of mine in India who said that he had just heard of global gas being used to generate methane and electricity to charge batteries. This is yet another indication that these alternative sources are making a comeback.

We had a data centre event recently and I met up with somebody who basically told me that Singapores at a great disadvantage when it comes to renewable sourcesit really doesnt have many.
He is right. Singapore does not have the opportunities as others do with renewable sources. But manure is a great opportunity. Did he agree with that?

No, actually he didnt mention that at all.
Milk must come from dairies. Where does the milk come from, is it imported?

Most of it is imported. If you go to certain shops you can get Amul brand milk as well. So farming is a negligible part of the economy in Singapore. How about Malaysia then?
Again, I havent studied Malaysia but any location where there is waste there is potential for biogas. For our paper, we singled out waste from dairy cows but let me go back to Singapore. The other thing we have studied is methane generation from human waste. So if you look at waste water, my estimate is that the city of Singapore must be sending 50 million gallonsIm just guessingper day of water to the treatment plant. Given how organised and clean Singapore is, it must have a very sophisticated water treatment plant.


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