Compost as Green Energy
- Warming Up to Mother Nature -

New sources of sustainable energy are being discovered with each passing year, the majority of which have applications on both the commercial and the residential level. Some involve groundbreaking new technologies while others simply require a little knowledge and resourcefulness.

Compost has long been used as a safe and bountiful source for fertilizer. We are now recognizing, however, that compost can be used to produce energy on a massive scale. It can also be put to use in the home on a much smaller scale to provide energy as well. The combined practices are allowing us to make considerable progress in keeping food waste out of the earth's landfills.

By incorporating what we take out of the earth into the process of creating energy, we are helping to solidify a true cycle within nature that is beneficial to the land and mankind.

Compost in the Home

In residential applications, compost is being widely used as a means to heat water. Compost water heaters can be constructed by anyone who is familiar with the proper setup. Essentially, a compost water heater consists of a compost heap that is partially buried in the ground, tubing, an old water heater tank, and some sort of storage container for the heated water. Some people decide to use caging or containers of some sort to contain the compost, however, a mound is just as effective. The compost mound covers two coils of polyethylene tubing that run into custom converted tubing connections. These connections allow the water to flow into an old water heater tank that has been converted into a unit for heat exchange between the compost and the water.

People utilizing systems similar to the one described here have reported that the temperatures they achieve maintain a steady 130 degrees Fahrenheit through the majority of the year. The temperature can fluctuate, of course. The variables affecting the heat levels include the mixture of the compost, the amount of compost, and the insulation or actual materials used in the hardware. Exploring this kind of technology can allow you to reduce electrical bills in the home by a considerable amount.

At the Level of Industry

Large-scale operations are based on the same basic principle of capturing the heat generated by compost. This heat is created as organic matter is broken down by the microscope organism present in the compost mixture. This method of capturing heat and converting it into usable electric power is an extremely efficient mode of recycling. The majority of the cost in setting up these kinds of plants resides in producing the machinery and paying workers to sort out materials such as metal from the organic matter that is being transferred to the facilities.

Recycling centers are not the only sectors of industry that realize the potential. Utility providers, like the ones at, are beginning to explore the possibilities in reducing the cost of electricity by keeping products such as grease, vegetables, and cooking oils out of landfills. Industries engaged in this practice are simply scaling up the process that has been occurring naturally in our gardens since the dawn of agriculture.