Ski and snowboard season for the Northeast opens in just a few weeks. And when it does, a Vermont ski area plans to unveil a gondola powered entirely by cow manure.
Killington Resort in central Vermont has partnered with Green Mountain Power to convert manure from nearby dairy farms to electricity for its K-1 Express Gondola. The so-called "Cow Power" program uses manure from 10,000 cows producing 300,000 gallons of manure per day.
"Easily the coolest thing you can possibly do with cow manure," the power company's website declares. "The short version is that we take cow manure, work some magic, turn it into methane, and then use that methane to generate electricity."
Killington's website explains the process in a bit more detail:
Farms collect cow manure throughout the day, mixing it with wash water from the milking equipment which is then pumped into an anaerobic digester. The slurry flows through a digester for about three weeks at 100 degrees Fahrenheit allowing bacteria to convert the manure into biogas, about 60% methane gas and 40% carbon dioxide. The biogas is then delivered to a modified natural gas engine, which drives an electric generator to create electricity. Finally, the energy generated is fed onto the GMP electrical system which ultimately powers the K-1 Express Gondola.
More than a dozen Vermont farms participate in the 8-year-old program, according to Green Mountain Power. In exchange, Cow Power farmers are paid for the "fuel," and "the process of producing Cow Power significantly reduces manure odor—a great benefit for anyone passing by a dairy farm on a hot summer day."
Or, to paraphrase George Costanza, when you consider the other choices, manure is actually pretty refreshing.
The cow-powered gondola runs from Killington's K-1 base lodge to the 4,241-foot summit of Killington Peak.
[Hat tip: Treehugger.com]