The use of bulls / oxen for electric power and its merits

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The use of bulls / oxen for electric power and its merits

Post by Seva Lamberdar on Mon Jan 30, 2017 4:16 pm

The huge controversy recently (Jan. 2017) about the harassing, humiliating and torturing of voiceless / helpless animals (bulls) publicly in the name of ‘taming the bull’ was sad and mind boggling. Some influential people made statements that there was no other way to protect and save bulls except through such public shows. I had spent first eighteen years of my life in a small village in H.P. before heading to university (IIT) for higher studies and had seen first-hand a number of real tamings of bulls (oxen) for agriculture in my village, but never anything like the recent irrelevant public spectacles.

Perhaps there are humane and ethical ways to deal with the situation of bulls and male calves (considered chiefly as sources of meat and leather currently due to their declining need in farming) which can improve their overall condition on long term basis as useful farm animals. Using bulls / oxen as renewable, self-sustaining and environment-friendly source of power to produce electricity locally seems one way to protect and save them and improve their condition (Ref. 1).

The electric power generation by using bulls / oxen, let’s call it bovine power station or BPS, will have an electric generator located centrally in a shed and connected via gearbox (gear drive) and beam to a yoke holding a number of bulls (2, 4 or more). As the animals go repeatedly in a circle around the generator driving its rotor, it will produce electricity which, using cables / wires, will either run the equipment locally, or stored in rechargeable batteries (for use later), or fed into the electric grid for use in far-off places (earning money to the BPS owner).  

Even though the idea of BPS using bulls / oxen to produce electricity seems too simplistic technologically and not very exciting in comparison to nuclear, wind or solar power etc., it has the promise of protecting and taking good care of bulls / oxen as useful farm animals while also ensuring a reliable supply of electricity produced locally. Moreover, as the energy needs around the world continue to rise making people pay more money for power and even willing to explore ways to harness energy using the sea tides and thermal / temperature gradient in sea water, the possibility of power generation using bulls / oxen locally as BPS does not seem far-fetched and economically unviable.    

In addition, unlike the nuclear power plants which produce radioactive wastes (spent fuel rods etc.) as a by-product that remains unsafe / hazardous to humans and environment for thousands of years while requiring enormous expenditure on safe storing, the natural by-product in BPS from bulls will be manure (as dung and urine) which can be used immediately to grow crops and keep soil in good and healthy condition. Moreover, as the numbers of domestic cattle continue to dwindle, as happening already in some places these days, it will lead to a shortage of manure (organic fertilizer) to grow crops. Some farmers have already started to buy manure for their crops from others. In this regard, the use of chemical fertilizers to make up for the lack of animal / organic manure (fertilizer) is not a viable option, because extra chemical fertilizer in soil tends to deteriorate its quality leading to lower crop yields and making the land infertile. The bulls / oxen used for BPS thus guarantee a good supply of manure for crops, leading to savings for the owner (not having to buy manure for crops from others) and even earning more money (by selling unused manure to others), which will help economically in the upkeep of these animals (including the food and shelter etc. for bulls / oxen).

Incidentally, the high dependency on chemical fertilizers in Western agriculture, without adding sufficient animal manure / fertilizer directly to soil, is possible by leaving the agricultural fields fallow for several months during the year because that gives time to soil to recover and replenish its nutrients naturally on its own. But that type of natural recovery and replenishment of soil, by leaving the fields uncultivated part of the year, is not possible in food-short India. Thus the use of animal fertilizer (manure) to grow crops in India is a must and it cannot be fully replaced by chemical fertilizers.  Similarly, getting energy from manure in the form of biogas (gobar gas) not only reduces the amount of much needed manure for agriculture, it only yields power on intermittent and unpredictable basis since the amount of biogas produced from manure depends on weather conditions including the temperature and humidity outside. Using bulls / oxen directly to produce electricity therefore ensures a steady / reliable energy output.

The bovine power production using bulls / oxen will also be more environment-friendly and land-savior than the current Govt. funded small hydroelectric plants which require diversion and damming of water from even the small streams and rivers (Ref. 1). Note, the mindless diverting and damming of small streams / rivers for electric power is putting large tracts of land out of use for habitat and agriculture, while also displacing people from areas submerged under dam. Moreover, the leftover land, after losing its original streams and rivers due to diversion and damming, becomes susceptible to increased flooding and soil erosion. In addition, it is no more able to fully support its natural / historical flora and fauna, some of which will be lost for good. On the other hand, there are no similar negative consequences from BPS (power production using bulls / oxen) and it only helps the environment and land positively, as discussed earlier.

Furthermore, it will be easier and cheaper to supply power to customers in rural areas from local BPS than from a remote hydroelectric or nuclear power plant requiring huge infrastructure. In addition, power supplied by BPS (using common / regular type electric generator, gearbox and batteries, which can be assembled and maintained by ordinary technicians) might also be cheaper and more reliable than from similar small-sized renewable energy sources such as solar cells or windmills which are highly dependent on favorable conditions (sunlight or wind to produce power) and require large monetary investments (to purchase custom-built equipment, requiring installation and maintenance by specialized personnel). In this regard, even the fossil fuel (coal or diesel / petrol) fired generators for electricity are questionable about their overall effectiveness, including the high price for fuel and equipment and their propensity to pollute the environment (with exhaust gases after burning coal and diesel etc.).

The components used in BPS, such as generator, gearbox and batteries etc., are a regular run-of-the-mill type, usually manufactured locally and available for many other kinds of applications. Thus, besides the possibility of easy and rapid procurement of BPS components locally, the customer will have a choice in buying them from many suppliers / manufacturers. This will guarantee him a good (cheap) price and service on BPS components, unlike in the case of custom-built components / equipment used to produce solar or wind power. In addition, as the use of BPS for power becomes more widespread it will increase the demand for BPS components (generators, gearboxes and batteries etc.), leading to more companies engaging in their production and that will be good for the regional and national economies.

In conclusion, BPS as a source of renewable, self-sustaining and environment-friendly power will also protect and save bulls / oxen and enhance their status as useful farm animals.

References

(1)    Subhash C. Sharma,”Going bullish with animal power,” Sept. 7, 2006,   http://www.geocities.ws/lamberdar/animal_power.html

: Dr. Subhash C. Sharma
(http://creative.sulekha.com/the-use-of-bulls-oxen-for-electric-power-and-its-merits_631236_blog)

Seva Lamberdar

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Re: The use of bulls / oxen for electric power and its merits

Post by Seva Lamberdar on Sat Feb 04, 2017 1:46 pm

I got questions from some people on this topic / write-up elsewhere, which I answered. I am reproducing my responses to them in the following (in italics).

First of all, it's not a question about tree-hugging etc. There are two important points here --

(1) to not let the energy source which we already have at our disposal as bulls / oxen go underutilized / unutilized / wasted, while we harness energy from other sources or look for new sources both of which have shortcomings and flaws (as pointed out in the earlier email and http://creative.sulekha.com/the-use-of-bulls-oxen-for-electric-power-and-its-merits_631236_blog), and

(2) to try to stop the unnecessary mistreatment and cruelty to the livestock which is occurring currently because these animals (bulls / oxen etc.) are looked at as redundant and of no use other than for meat and leather.

Secondly, regarding the efficacy of BPS (power using bulls / oxen), there are huge advantages in it, as pointed out earlier. Besides the manure etc. available for use from bulls / oxen running the generator, the animals perform work on the generator (having 90 – 95% efficiency of energy conversion) through a direct / positive interface (gear drive etc., having 90 – 95% transmission efficiency), unlike in the case of hydroelectric or nuclear power turbines where the energy exchange from the mechanical unit to the electrical unit is through momentum transfer that involves a significant quantity of energized fluid (water or steam) flowing away without imparting energy to the generator. The overall efficiency of energy conversion or power generation in BPS, from the mechanical phase to the electrical, is expected in the range +80%, and that certainly is quite attractive and in favor of BPS.

Thirdly, bulls / oxen have been utilized on farms for plowing and other applications ever since agriculture started thousands of years ago. Now, when farming has been mechanized and these animals are replaced by tractors etc., they are forced to sit idle and thus considered having no use other than as a source of meat and leather. Naturally, there is a lot of mistreatment and cruelty towards them now as they wait to be put to death for meat and leather. Putting them back to work in future to produce electricity cannot be considered as abusing them, because it will be like they used to work in farming (tilling the land etc.) before for several millennia. Moreover, it will only improve their condition and treatment as they appear to become useful and productive, while getting a new lease on life and a chance to live longer.

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Re: The use of bulls / oxen for electric power and its merits

Post by Vakavaka Pakapaka on Sat Feb 04, 2017 5:37 pm

If they put a bait (some snack that bulls love) that rotates in front of the bulls and the distance btween the bull and the snack decreases with time (so that they can grab it every 15 min), they will happily walk around and generate power and also receive the energy needed to work. For a more advanced application, if they can put the picture of a cow in front and put the appropriate scent on it, the bulls may even run......

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Re: The use of bulls / oxen for electric power and its merits

Post by TruthSeeker on Sun Feb 05, 2017 11:49 pm

Arre baap re, current lag gaya post ka size dekh ke,
TS.

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Re: The use of bulls / oxen for electric power and its merits

Post by Seva Lamberdar on Wed Feb 08, 2017 3:24 pm

In response to the question on the depreciation involved in the bovine power equipment, note that the electrical and other kinds of equipment (electrical motors and drive mechanisms etc.) usually last at least 10 yrs. during farm applications. Thus it will be natural to expect a similar thing about the equipment used for BPS, depreciating in value and used over 10 yrs. Moreover, spending money on the upkeep of bulls / oxen for electrical power is no different than the expenses incurred in other kinds of power generations, including the hydroelectric and nuclear power which need land and water used for power plants (including the pools and dams), infrastructure (initial construction and maintenance costs for buildings and power lines etc., including the facilities for storing hazardous waste e.g. nuclear / radioactive waste) and the personnel (technical and nontechnical manpower) for maintaining and running the power plants.

In any case, it will be better for the well-being and long life of bulls / oxen to have them put to work prudently and humanely to generate electricity, while the owners of these animals even pool together their individual livestock to produce power jointly using a common BPS (bovine power station). Moreover, it will not be something new and unusual for bulls / oxen to help their owners physically in running the BPS, considering the bulls / oxen have already been used for thousands of years in farming (for ploughing the land etc.), thus keeping the agriculture alive and helping the civilization progress, as indicated in "Farming and philosophy in India during ancient times" -- http://creative.sulekha.com/farming-and-philosophy-in-india-during-ancient-times_527016_blog

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Re: The use of bulls / oxen for electric power and its merits

Post by Seva Lamberdar on Sat Feb 18, 2017 4:08 pm

TruthSeeker wrote:Arre baap re, current lag gaya post ka size dekh ke,
TS.
another link (Linkedin.com),

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/use-bulls-oxen-electric-power-its-merits-dr-subhash-c-sharma

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Re: The use of bulls / oxen for electric power and its merits

Post by MaxEntropy_Man on Sat Feb 18, 2017 6:13 pm

This thread has been the most entertaining read in a long time!
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