Life-sized ‘cow lamp’ appears outside Houses of Parliament

A life-sized “cow lamp” appeared in front of the Houses of Parliament – to draw attention to the potential of livestock poo being used as a renewable energy source. Passers-by did a double take at the unusual replica of a Victorian sewer lamp connected to a cow in central London.

But it was there to symbolise the untapped potential of biogas – which is derived from cow poo and food waste – as a renewable energy source.

Biogas was once a staple of Victorian Britain after Birmingham engineer, Joseph Edmund Webb, patented a sewer gas destructor lamp fuelled by emissions from London’s sewers.

And following the government’s announcement last month of a major new strategy to deliver energy security and net zero, it has been suggested poo could help solve the UK’s energy security crisis, with a nationwide strategy for anaerobic digestion of farm and food waste.

James Pirie, vice president of logistics at the UK’s largest dairy cooperative, Arla – which is behind the cow lamp stunt – said: “Dairy farmers have the potential to play a major role in the future of the UK’s energy security, using natural resources to provide more energy independence.

“With better infrastructure and network support, Britain’s livestock sector has the potential to turn nearly 91 million tonnes of manure and slurry, and 10 million tonnes of food waste, into eight billion cubic metres of biomethane – enough to power 6.4 million homes.

“If we put the right policy changes in place and give our farmers the support they need, we can unlock the potential for even more farms to scale their use of renewable energy sources, and ensure a more secure energy system for the future.”

The process of utilising anaerobic digestion is a bacterial breakdown of organic matter in the absence of oxygen, producing biogas which can be converted into energy.

It has been suggested by the brand that a new national anaerobic digestion strategy, incorporating larger community-based facilities generating biogases, can be fed into the gas grid or used in transport, and small-scale digestors create energy for use on farm.

By doing so, it’s also been indicated it could be better and more affordable for grid connections to facilitate an anaerobic digestion revolution – and, at the same time, help more farmers install solar power and other renewables.

A farmer from Arla added: “Cow slurry has the potential to power communities across the UK and be used as a natural fertiliser to nourish the land we farm.

“Unfortunately, installation of an anaerobic digestor to make this happen is not cheap, and operation and maintenance have to be learnt – but the benefits soon outweigh the obstacles.

“We’re hoping that with the Government’s help, we can resolve the difficulties farmers face with grid connections, costly installations, and regulatory and planning issues, so we can better utilise this invaluable energy source.”

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