Can you imagine a scenario where all the efforts you put into manure management could be used towards a sustainable energy source for your home? In Finland, heat recovery technology from horse manure is gaining momentum in local equine shows and amongst farmers, as some organizations are starting to reap the benefits of an alternative and sustainable energy source that could replace fossil fuels.
Simply put, composting horse manure yields fertilizer and generates heat, and its energy can be converted and used to power homes. In some Finnish farms, a rotary drum composting mechanism equipped with a heat recovery system is used to power barns with electricity. Temperature and humidity can be adjusted by changing the rotation speed, where the temperature inside the composting system can reach up to 140-160 Fahrenheit. The manure can be processes within 7-10 days, and the energy can be recovered and used to heat nearby rooms and water within the farm.
The Finnish government reported its ambition to become more reliant on manure as an alternative form of energy to fossil fuels. Since 2015, the Helsinki International Horse Show, in partnership with local clean-energy company Fortum HorsePower and the International Equestrian Federation (FEI), have consistently generated electricity from horse manure collected from competing horses at the event. The manure is taken to a biomass powerplant and mixed with wood shavings, where the power generated is used to supply all electricity needs in this 4-day annual event. As a testament to the efficiency of this process, additional energy is allocated to neighboring homes and communities in the area. According to Fortum HorsePower Vice President Anssi Paalanen: “the manure produced daily by two horses can generate heat for a single-family home for a year.” The company believes that this initiative shows great potential and tremendous opportunities for implementation in equine-dense areas around Europe.
Efficient manure management is key to producing a sustainable energy source, and while this technology has shown merit on a small scale, other challenges arise to make this energy efficient and profitable for an extensive rollout. According to an Italian research paper published in 2021, if we can find an effective way to dry the manure then it could prove to be a clean and efficient biofuel. Managing moisture is one of the key challenges, as manure has over 80% of water content and a very low heating value when moist. Mixing manure with wood chips or bedding is an effective way to overcome the humidity problem, but its benefits are limited as a large-scale solution. Today, researchers aim to find ways to optimize the drying process to allow for profitable combustion.
While we are still far from an ideal world where large cities could be powered by our equine friends, a smaller-scale solution can be beneficial to farmers and rural local towns in the U.S. It could show great potential in areas or countries with large equine populations to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and minimize our impact on climate change.
Need more tips on manure management? Read our blog articles on:
Composting Horse Manure https://equinefacilitydesign.com/facility-planning-design/composting-horse-manure.htm and
Potty Training Your Horse Using Stud Piles: https://equinefacilitydesign.com/equine-care/potty-train-horse-using-stud-piles.htm
2021 Research on Effective energy exploitation from horse manure combustion:
FEI Article: “Natural horse power provides heat and electricity to Helsinki”