PG&E is teeming up with dairymen and bioenergy companies to convert tons of manure from dairy cows in to electricity. According to this press release the first plant will be built this spring, be on line by the summer and generate enough energy for 50,000 homes.
Since the state has already mandated that 20% of the energy sold by investor owned power companies come from renewable sources by 2010, this is one of many steps PG&E and other companies will have to take soon in order to comply.
This Business 2.0 blog post has a pretty good summary of the new plant and the issues around using biomass as a renewable source. Check out first comment on the blog for a suggested better technology that leaves no residual waste. These kinds of steps give hope that new technology can eventually overcome the curse of pollution that old technology has wrought.
In spite of the happy cow commercials apparently most of the manure production will come from massive dairies in the central valley where cows live in unhappy close quarters. The real happy cows here in Humboldt County that live in open fields just can’t mass enough manure to make such a plant viable here in the green happy north coast. At least that’s my understanding from comments on this post from a while back.