Here’s your smile for the day! Computerworld reports that a research team at Hewlett Packard Company has presented a paper suggesting that the use of cow manure from dairy farms and other "digested farm waste" could be used to generate electricity The paper hypothesizes that 10,000 dairy cows could power a 1 MW data center. This equates to power needed for about 1,000 servers.
Organic matter is already being used by farms to generate power through anaerobic digestion, a method that produces a methane-rich biogas. HP’s research investigates how this process might be extended.
One practical problem that surfaces is that a farm of 10,000 dairy cows is unrealistic, as the average dairy farm in the United States has less than 1,000 cows. And how do you connect the data center to the cows? Another problem is that farmers who now use the anaerobic digestion system usually get some funding from state and federal grants with a payback of four years or less on the technology. The payback can be about 10 years without grants.
Still, an estimated 290 million kWh were produced by 125 operating digester projects at commercial livestock facilities in the U.S in 2008. Maybe those "cow patties" will be powering your server in the not-too-distant future!