The street light
The first model of the street light is installed near inventor Brian Harper’s home in Malvern Hills. Image credit: Reuters video screenshot.

When the sun sets behind the hills of Malvern, England, old-fashioned gas lanterns light many of the town’s streets and paths. Now, one of them gets its power from an unusual source … dog poo.

Brian Harper created the system because he was tired of seeing dog waste left carelessly behind.

Harper: “It’s a free-standing traditional gas lantern made of copper, and then a small biodigester sits alongside it, and that has a hopper into which a dog poo bag can be placed.”

When animal waste breaks down, it releases methane, a potent global warming gas. But if it breaks down in a biodigester like the one in Harper’s contraption, the methane can be captured and used as fuel.

Harper: “Roundabout ten large dog poos will run the lantern to towards two hours.”

Harper’s system is small, but has many benefits: it cuts back on the need for trash removal, reduces methane emissions, and provides light without using energy from fossil fuels.

Harper plans to produce and sell the lantern systems on a larger scale. He says they could be most useful in dog parks, where the supply of poo is plentiful.

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media.

Bruce Lieberman, a long-time journalist, has covered climate change science, policy, and politics for nearly two decades. A newspaper reporter for 20 years, Bruce worked for The San Diego Union-Tribune...