Tuesday, June 10, 2008

we've got gas!

Good times on the weekend. On Sunday the brand new biogas plant in our little town held an open house. We decided to get in on the fun by walking over to take a look.

This is a pretty flat, rural area and there are walkways between most of the fields. Only pedestrians, bikes and farming vehicles allowed. If you don't watch your back at all times you run the risk of getting run over by a tractor. That's country life for ya.

We thought it would take us about a half hour to get there but we ended up going for 45 minutes since the plant is right on the edge of town and we just happen to live on the other edge.

This is where the journey starts.

If hiking through the fields in the blazing hot sun isn't your idea of fun, you can always follow that brown sign pointing to the left and end up at the friendly neighbourhood brothel aka "erotic hotel". Uh huh. I've never been there but I hear it's very nice. Isn't Germany progressive?

Also to the left is a more innocent view of the old sugar factory with yet another small town behind it.

But there were no detours allowed and so we trudged on and on

If you'd been with us you would have seen wild flowers along the way

And many a tasty vegetable set out in neat rows

Cauliflower in the making

The railway crossing is always a highlight because it means you're halfway there.

And finally (finally!), just when you think you can't stand it a minute longer, the biogas plant, lovingly know by the common folk as The Three Nipples, comes into view.

Basically, they're taking corn and turning it into biogas (methane) which is then piped into the natural gas line for Hannover. Wow. What a feat. There's a lot of controversy surrounding this type of process, but we're not going to start a debate on the pros and cons here.

Here's a closer view of one of the three containers

The shredded corn is kept in large compressed piles outside and is gradually fed into the first container to start the fermentation process. And no, it doesn't smell as bad as people thought it would.

For privacy reasons I'm unable to post any more pictures here, but it was a very interesting tour and I have to say I was impressed even if I may not entirely agree with the idea of using food for fuel. Ahem.

The sizzling 45 minute walk back brought me a killer migraine (and stripey feet thanks to my sandals!) and I had to lie down for the rest of the afternoon. The good side to that was that the hour and a half of power walking meant that I didn't need to use the cross trainer that day, and that's a good thing.

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At June 10, 2008 5:07 p.m., Blogger Rositta said...

Much nicer walk than the city sidewalks that I'm using for training these days...lucky you. Yup food for gas, what a choice...ciao

At June 10, 2008 10:17 p.m., Blogger Angie said...

Wow, it looks a lot like the American Midwest! Where, incidentally, a similar debate (re. ethanol) rages on.

And the Three Nipples look like the storage tanks for road salt that line some highways here. When I was young, my dad called them "Dolly Parton Monuments," earning an irritated poke from my mother every time. ;)

At June 10, 2008 10:55 p.m., Blogger Maribeth said...

Quite the walk. I get those migraines in the heat and sun, (I tell Hubby I am a delicate little flower!) so I try to avoid them. Unless, of course, the walk is through the woods. That I enjoy because the trees shade me.
Have a good night.

At June 11, 2008 8:01 a.m., Blogger Niloofar said...

wow you have a nice blog !

At June 11, 2008 9:46 a.m., Blogger Snooker said...

Very interesting to check out what may very well be our future... arguments aside. Of course that is if they can figure out how to FEED the rest of the world WHILE they make this fuel.

Whatever happened to using by-products like animal dung (pig, cow) to get methane? Wouldn't that make more sense?

At June 11, 2008 11:20 a.m., Blogger Pippa said...

Wow, I think using a more sustainable source for energy is already a big step in the right direction! Kudos for Germany and Dullsville!

Just this week I realized what a terribly wasteful life we lead, how much we harm the Earth. This is good news.

At June 11, 2008 1:15 p.m., Blogger The Big Finn said...

If the corn in Germany is anything like the corn grown in Switzerland, then I think that using it for fuel is a far better option than using it for food. Swiss corn on the cob is AWFUL!!!

God, how I miss the sweet corn that's grown in the midwestern U.S. I'll be in Chicago at the end of July, and I'll be sure to fill up on some then...if it's ready.

At June 11, 2008 7:13 p.m., Blogger CanadianSwiss said...

When I read your post title, I was thinking that you cooked some kind of killer sourkraut!

I hope the migraine has passed.

At June 12, 2008 1:52 a.m., Blogger Diane Mandy said...

What an informative post. But I am with Snooker on using dung--except I wouldn't want to be too close to the plant.

At June 12, 2008 9:10 p.m., Blogger Ginnie said...

That actually is pretty darn progressive, Christina, if you ask me, regardless of the debate. Talk about sustainable energy. Isn't that what we're all looking and hoping for??!!

BTW, the middle image of the poppies in the field is a greeting card. You could market it!

At June 12, 2008 10:24 p.m., Blogger Expat Traveler said...

What a cool tour! Lovely blue sky seems to be enjoyable.. I could actually stand a great warm day..

At June 14, 2008 9:32 a.m., Blogger beaverboosh said...

I have been developing bio-gas in my stomach for many years. Security reasons prevent me from publishing any pictures.

At June 25, 2008 2:21 p.m., Blogger christina said...

(Sorry for the long delay in replying!)

rositta - Yeah, it's nice on a sunny day, but usually there's a fierce wind blowing through there and that can be kind of nasty.

angie - I have a feeling it's pretty similar. I've read quite a bit about the ethanol debate - we'll see if this kind of thing actually holds up in the end.

maribeth - I should have worn a hat, but I always forget and it was a longer walk than we thought. Oh well. :-)

snooker - Yes, finding a balance would be wonderful, but I'm not sure it's going to happen all that soon. There are some methane plants in Germany that use pig manure and China has also copied the idea from Germany but I'm not sure how practical it is or how much yield they actually have. My husbands says the idea is to not have to transport the stuff too far, so it needs to be local.

Pippa - I think this is one of the biggest plants in Germany and it's been well received. It is good news, but unfortunately some humans are suffering because of it. Hopefully they'll be able to resolve that.

TBF - When I first moved here the corn was absolutely awful. Mr. M didn't even know you could eat it. Now they sell Zuckermais which is way better, but you still have to watch the quality. The fresh corn in B.C. is great so we're looking forward to that.

CanSwiss - LOL! You don't really want me to blog about that, do you?

diane - Well that's exactly it, a lot of people wouldn't want to put up with the smell. The fermented corn doesn't smell too bad at all - kind of like flowers that have been left in a vase for too long.

ginnie - It's absolutely what we're looking for! But they still have to work out a lot of kinks and avoid have food prices go up too much. As I mentioned, these fields used to be used for food crops so that food now has to be brought in from somewhere else.

Expat - I think it was 92°C or something! A bit hot for a long walk, but we've been having gorgeous weather lately. We'll try to bring some with us when we come to Van. :-)

beaverboosh - Oh my. I bet if word got out they'd have you lighting up the whole of Norway with your emissions!


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