What's that smell? Just cows helping produce more eco-friendly p - WBNG.com: Binghamton-area News, Weather, Sports

What's that smell? Just cows helping produce more eco-friendly power

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ITHACA, N.Y. (WBNG) -- At the Cornell Teaching Dairy Barn, students are learning how to become veterinarians. They recently had a light bulb moment when it came to their dairy cows.

For years, the cow's waste was shipped to a local farm as fertilizer. But that partnership fell through. So the college partnered with the Ithaca Waste Treatment Facility this past winter.

Instead of just disposing of the waste, it's used to produce natural gas. So how does this work?

It starts with the sand the cows lay on. Sand is used over hay or grass for bedding because it's healthier for the cows, especially since bacteria can't build up as easily.

As the cow beds are cleaned, waste and sand get washed away together to an area where they can be separated.

"From that reception pit, it's pumped up into our separation system, diluted with basically recycled liquid manure diluted down. Um, and then pumped up into a hydro-cyclone, which essentially spins that liquid and sand mixture. The sand falls down in the cyclone and the liquid comes up out of the top of the cyclone," said Director of Bio-Containment Operations at Cornell University Paul Jennette.

From there, the separated sand is washed with water and re-used as bedding for the cows. The waste is sent to the treatment facility in Ithaca and used to produce natural gas. This entire process is a win-win.

"Obviously, environmental benefits, uh, for us. But it also enables us to keep on using sand, which has significant health benefits for the cows," said Jennette.

Along with the good environmental impact, turning this waste to energy is something the university can afford to do. The process overall costs some money, but long-term it's very cost effective. Of course, the university isn't in the business of making milk, they want to train veterinarians. So the whole system fits at Cornell.

Next time you're thinking about being environmentally friendly, or using natural gas, just remember -- you might be getting a little help from the cows at Cornell.

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