How to Build a Horse Manure Compost Pile that can Heat a Greenhouse
Midwest Permaculture website shares a rough outline of how to build a horse manure compost pile that can heat a greenhouse the following spring. At the end of the article, there are resources to explore the “Jean Pain Compost Heating Bioenergy System ” further .
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Jean Pain Composting History
Pain’s compost power plant supplied 100 percent of Pain and his wife Ida’s rural household’s energy needs. A compost mound of tiny brushwood pieces (3 metres high and 6 across) was made of tree limbs and pulverized underbrush. Pain spent considerable attention developing prototypes of machines required to macerate small tree trunks and limbs; one of these, a tractor-driven model, was awarded fourth prize in the 1978 Grenoble Agricultural Fair. The 50 tonnes of compost were then mounded over a steel tank with a capacity of 4 cubic metres. This tank was 3/4 full of the same compost, which had first been steeped in water for 2 months. The hermetically sealed tank was connected by tubing to 24 truck tyre inner tubes, banked nearby for the methane gas to collect. The gas was distilled by being washed through small stones in water and compressed. Pain used the gas for cooking and producing electricity. He also fueled a light van. Pain estimated that 10 kilos of brushwood would supply the gas equivalent of a litre of petrol.
It took about 90 days to produce 500 cubic metres of gas – enough to keep two ovens and three burner stoves going for a year. The methane-fueled combustion engine drove a generator that produced 100W of electricity. This charged an accumulative battery which stored the current, providing all the light needed for the household. Some skepticism has been leveled at the quantities of methane Pain was able to extract from his system, and it is not known if anyone has been able to reproduce this quantity of the same system.
Hot water was generated through 200 metres of pipe buried inside the compost mound. The pipe was wrapped around the methane generator with an inlet for cold water and an outlet for hot. The heat from the decomposing mass produced 4 litres per minute of hot water heated to 60 degrees Celsius – enough to satisfy the central heating, bathroom and kitchen requirements.
The compost heap continued fermenting for nearly 18 months, after which time the installation was dismantled, with the humus being used to mulch soils, and a new compost system was set up at once to assure a continuous supply of hot water…. as quoted by wikipedia
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