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Sh*tloads of Energy

February 15, 2010

Poop has got to be the ultimate renewable resource. I mean, overpopulation is only a problem if you don’t have the means to sustain it (or if you run out of space, which isn’t the case), and what potential resource increments proportionately to the number of people on the planet? Poop! It’s no wonder that we refer to our own byproduct (i.e. feces, excrement, poop, sh*t) as human “waste”–considering that’s what we do with it.

Illustration by David Simonds

Can you imagine if we could harness the energy produced by our very existence? Doesn’t that make every bit of sense? It seems so damn obvious that its mind-boggling to think this whole time we’ve been pillaging the earth to our disadvantage, we’ve been literally sitting on the answer to our problems.

Poo Power Panel 1:  Molika Ashford (cow poo)

Of course, it’s not all that simple. Though the idea of biofuel has been around for millenia, extracting energy from human waste vs. animal waste is a tricky business. Because existing infrastructures collect human waste as sewage sludge (which contains household/industrial chemicals, heavy metals, etc.) rather than in its original state, issues of toxic emissions upon combustion and the energy required to prevent this threaten the efficiency of the process.

Foto by jlj4774 on flickr

Thames Water Sewage Treatment Plant

In the last few years however, (human) methane-capture technology seems to be improving and on the rise both in developing countries and on a larger-scale with pioneer projects like the Lions Gate Wastewater Treatment Plant Biomethane Project in Vancouver, Ameresco Inc in San Antonio, Texas, and Thames Water in the UK.

tjep: oogst 1000 wonderland’s design includes a bio-gass energy system

Andrew Maynard was certainly on to something with his Poop House…will we see the day when architecture, design (e.g. better composing toilets) and infrustructure integrate to deliver a fully functional and efficient grid system that would endlessly recycle our waste into energy? That would be some seriously cool shit.

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