HP Labs: Cow Pies Can Solve Data Center Power Woes


Data centers running short on power can forget solar, wind or fossil fuel power, and instead start shoveling cow manure, according to a new research study from Hewlett-Packard.

HP Wednesday said its research arm, HP Labs, has shown how manure from 10,000 dairy cows could power a 1-megawatt data center with power to spare for the rest of the farm’s own needs.

This is done by funneling the heat generated by the data center for use in heating up the manure to increase the efficiency of the decomposition process of animal waste to produce methane, which can be used to generate power for the data center, HP said.

HP labs said the manure of one diary cow can be processed to produce about 3.0 kilowatt-hours of electricity. That means a medium-sized dairy farm with 10,000 cows, which generates about 200,000 metric tons of manure per year, could produce enough power to run the data center and its own operations while cutting the groundwater and air pollution caused by that manure.

An HP Labs illustration tying data centers and cow manure can be viewed here.

Farmers who did so could break even in costs within two years, and earn about $2 million from selling the power to data centers after the second year, HP Labs said.

HP was unable to respond to the question by press time of whether it expected future data centers to be located on dairy farms.