Traditionally cow dung has been used as a fertilizer, though today dung is collected and used to produce biogas. This gas is rich in methane and is used in rural areas of India/Pakistan and elsewhere to provide a renewable and stable source of electricity. According to the International Energy Agency, bioenergy (biogas and biomass) have the potential to meet more than a quarter of world demand for transportation fuels by 2050.
Biomass has become an increasingly important energy source in Denmark over the last 25 years. Being a carbon neutral energy source, it has already helped make a significant contribution to the reduction of Danish carbon emissions. The conversion of more biomass at power stations will help Denmark reach its target of 30% renewable energy by 2020. Today, biomass accounts for approximately 12% of world energy consumption.
Yet the potential of using biogas has so far been unexploited, especially in the form of livestock manure in the agriculture system. Denmark is well known for its farming industry; approximately 65% of the land is used for agriculture, emitting 18% of all greenhouse gases here, through methane and nitrogen. So farming has an important part to play in the transition to a fossil fuel free society. The Danish government now wants up to 50% of livestock manure to be made into this green energy supply.
One of the world’s largest biogas plants is currently being built in North West Jutland, in one of Denmark’s most important agricultural areas. Due for completion in 2012, Maabjerg Bioenergy will convert 500,000 tons of biomass into pure energy. The big plant is a co-operation between agriculture, local government and district heat stations and will purify livestock manure, while at the same time produce heat and electricity to the nearby cities of Holstebro and Struer.
When operational, Maabjerg Bioenergy will provide both environmental and employment benefits. Helping reduce carbon emissions, provide clean green energy and enable local farmers to maintain current herds, with potential for future cattle increases. With biogas currently exempt from Danish taxation, it is hoped that over the next ten years there will be up to fifty new large scale biogas plants in Denmark.