Biogas, produced by anaerobic digestion, is a methane- and carbon dioxide-rich fuel that can be used for energy. It involves a series of processes in which microorganisms break down biodegradable material in the absence of oxygen to release energy. Until recently, much of this energy was lost. But now we know how to harness this energy, and biogas power plants are springing up around the world.

As the Guardian reports, one station near Gloucestershire in southern England will use the droppings of area chickens to light and heat local homes. The Cirencester biogas plant will receive the animal and agricultural waste from area farms. Peter Kindt is managing director of Alfagy, the company behind the plant’s biogas technology. As he told The Guardian, "What makes this project exciting is that farmers deliver energy to the urban environment. We believe this is a model for the future of local power generation.”

Farmers not only get a chance to reduce their carbon footprint — they are also paid for their waste donations. They also receive free heat for their animals. Further, excess waste will be returned to the famers to use as fertilizer. This will help reduce agriculture’s carbon footprint because fertilizers are often trucked in from great distances.

The biogas plant will begin energy production next month. It is the first of its kind in Great Britain. This type of plant is more common in Sweden and Germany but is beginning to appear elsewhere. In Massachusetts, one program is testing the use of dog droppings to power a public park. The United Nations Development Program has recognized biogas plans as a useful resource because they are less “capital-intensive” to start up than other systems.

Ultimately, the future looks bright for biogas. The process dates back to the 17th century and experienced a modern revival during World War II. Experts say interest in this unlimited fuel will only continue to grow.

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