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Idaho Cows Power 53,000 Servers?

Author: Mark Dixon
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
12:40 pm

image First, the disclaimer:  I grew up in the Magic Valley area of southern Idaho on a small dairy farm.  Because of that, my worldview is often skewed in terms of Idaho milk cows.

This morning, IT World Canada reported,

“Researchers at Hewlett Packard Co.’s HP Labs presented a paper on using cow manure from dairy farms and cattle feedlots and other "digested farm waste" to generate electricity to an American Society of Mechanical Engineers conference held this week.

“In the paper, the research team calculates that "a hypothetical farm of 10,000 dairy cows" could power a 1 MW data center — or on the order of 1,000 servers.”

So, it takes waste from 10 cows to fuel 1 server!  I immediately thought of my Dad, a retired farmer who still lives in the Magic Valley area of Idaho.  He once told me that the only thing growing faster than the number of cell phone towers in Magic Valley were the stacks of cow manure.  That is probably due to the 382,214 dairy cows that lived in Magic Valley as of the latest report of the United Dairymen of Idaho

With the ever-increasing overabundance of cow manure in Idaho, I was encouraged by the HP study.  In all of Idaho, there are 532,353 milk cows – a ratio of roughly one cow for every three human residents (see Census Bureau)!  This is enough cows to fuel 53,000 servers. 

This could lead to Idaho being home to huge data centers, all powered by bovine effluent.  If HP’s estimates are accurate, the current Idaho dairy cow population could fuel 53,000 power-hungry servers, all while increasing dairy farmers’ profit rate eliminating smelly piles of cow manure.  A win-win-win for Magic Valley, I’m sure!

Plus, I know some Oracle reps who would love to sell that many servers (with all due respect to the HP study).

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