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Joao Peixe

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Joao is a writer for Oilprice.com

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Dead Bodies for Renewable Energy?

Could human corpses end up providing our next renewable energy source, or is this controversial idea dead in the water?

A crematorium in the city of Durham in the UK recently announced that it would use heat from its burners to produce electricity and bring down its energy costs.

The idea started to percolate after an environmental review concluded that the crematorium’s chimneys were releasing too much smoke into the air, and inspectors said that the crematorium would have to purchase new ovens to meet current environmental standards and reduce air pollution.

If the idea is realized, the company will install turbines in two of its burners and sell the excess energy to Great Britain's National Grid. In return, it will receive compensation from energy companies under the feed-in tariffs program. The third furnace will continue to warm the site's chapel and offices.

The amount of electricity that could be produced by the furnaces would depend on how much they are in use—or more to the point, on the death toll.

Related article: German Elections Seal Fate of Renewable Energy

The crematorium currently holds around 2,100 services a year. This is enough, engineers estimate, to allow each turbine to generate 250 kilowatt-hours, enough electricity to power 1,500 televisions.

Many crematoriums in UK are currently replacing their furnaces to meet government targets on preventing mercury emissions from escaping into the atmosphere. Up to 16% of all mercury emitted in the UK comes from crematoriums because of fillings in teeth. Left unchecked, that figure is predicted to rise to 25% by 2020.

Aside from the fact that psychologically the thought of heating one’s house with energy from dead bodies is unpleasant, from a pragmatic viewpoint, it’s efficient and cost-effective. This is especially true when considering that electricity costs are on an upward swing in the UK, while over 70% of the countries dead are being cremated.  

Experts say that if the heat recycling process proves profitable, other crematoriums across Europe could follow suit.

There is a precedent: In 2012, Redditch Borough Council in London adopted the idea of harnessing the wasted heat from cremation temperatures to heat pools, saving the City over $22,000 in electricity expenditures.

By. Joao Peixe of Oilprice.com




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Leave a comment
  • Brian Sanderson on September 27 2013 said:
    Ha, bodies to heat is called downcycling. For the recycling option, see: Soylent Green (1973 movie).
  • Jasper Rothfuss on September 28 2013 said:
    Such a company already exists. Google "Oynklent Green" on the internet.

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