Carbondale dog park could turn poop into power
CARBONDALE – One of the more unique applications in renewable energy could find its way to a dog-friendly park in Carbondale.
Laurie Guevara-Stone of Carbondale-based Solar Energy International recently approached the Carbondale parks and recreation commission about installing a gas lamp in one of Carbondale’s dog parks that would be fueled by methane from dog waste.
If the project proves to be feasible, and if grant funding can be obtained, it would serve as yet another renewable energy demonstration project in green-savvy Carbondale.
Bio-methane technology isn’t new, Guevara-Stone said.
“There are bio-digesters all over the world that turn waste products, such as cooking oil and cow manure, into usable methane gas,” she said.
But, this particular application is admittedly a little different.
The project would be modeled after what’s known as The Park Spark Project, which began at a dog park in Cambridge, Mass. It has grown to include similar demo projects across the country, including one that’s in the works in Denver.
The Park Spark project installs a methane digester in public parks to collect dog waste and transform it into methane, according to the project website, at http://www.parksparkproject.com.
In Cambridge, the methane is used to light a small gas lamp in the park, which burns eternally and provides some illumination for nighttime park users.
The methane collection system involves a pair of chambers or tanks, which can be installed either above ground or below ground, according to a description provided on the website.
Dog owners pick up their dog’s waste using bio-degradable bags, and drop it into a “feeding tube” that goes to the first chamber.
The first tank is designed to be anaerobic, meaning without oxygen. The dog waste collects in the bottom of the tank which is filled to a certain level with water. There’s a hand crank on the outside to stir the mixture and release the methane gas, which then rises to the top of the tank.
The second chamber is an overflow tank for the liquid, and keeps the digester tank at a constant level so that there’s room for the gas to collect. A small pipe extends from the digester tank, bringing the methane to the lamppost, where it is burned.
“We need to do some research to see how feasible it would be to do here, and then apply for some grants,” Guevara-Stone said. “But I think it would be a really cool thing for Carbondale to have.”
In addition to its demonstration value, the project would also serve to divert dog waste from the landfill and make use of the resulting methane product on site.
“All of that dog waste just goes to the landfill now, where it turns to methane anyway, and just adds to greenhouse gases,” Guevara-Stone said.
A lot depends on whether there would be enough volume of waste to make the project work in Carbondale, but she figures a small-scale demo could be done for about $5,000.
“A small demonstration project is all we’re talking about for now,” she said. “But it would be really exciting to see something like this expand. It’s a great way to deal with dog waste, and I’d like to see it catch on and be the norm.”
Carbondale Public Works Director Larry Ballenger said the parks commission was open to the idea.
“We would just need to figure out the best place to put it,” he said.
Carbondale has two dedicated dog parks, including a smaller fenced-in facility at Hendrick Park, and the larger off-leash “Delaney” dog park.
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