The search engine giant, which invests in offset projects as part of its bid for carbon neutrality, has backed the new scheme designed by Duke University and Duke Energy.

Built on a pig farm in North Carolina in the United States the scheme turns animal waste into electricity, it also creates carbon offset credits for the energy company while the farm benefits from free electricity.

The $1.2M prototype on a 9,000-head pig finishing farm is designed to serve as a model for other farms wanting to manage waste, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and develop on-farm renewable power.

The system captures greenhouse gases from pig poo and burning it to run a turbine, which produces enough electricity to power about 35 homes for a year, according to the team behind it.

As a result, researchers believe, the scheme could prevent the equivalent of nearly 5,000 metric tons of CO2 being released every year.

Currently many US pig, or hog, farms use open waste lagoons and are, as a result, prolific producers of methane gas, which is 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide, pound-for-pound, as a greenhouse gas.

Duke University’s director of carbon offsets initiative, Tatjana Vujic, said: “It is exciting to see the system up and running, and even more exciting that it’s getting recognised by Google.

“Completing this full-scale system and getting it operational is a great testament to its design and the foresight of all of its various supporters.”

As part of the agreement, signed this week with Google, the search engine will take on a share of the university’s costs in return for a portion of the carbon offsets for a five-year term.

Duke Energy and the university will share operational and maintenance costs for the first ten years of operation.

Luke Walsh

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