ZooShare Biogas Co-operative Inc., a non-profit renewable energy co-operative, is set to develop the first North American zoo biogas facility at the Toronto Zoo. Biogas is a type of renewable energy that converts organic waste into energy and fertilizer using a process called anaerobic digestion. The specific types of organic waste that the ZooShare Biogas Co-operative will use at the Toronto Zoo will be animal waste and food waste from local grocery stores. The animal and food waste will be converted into electricity, heat and fertilizer, benefiting both the local community and the environment.
The process of anaerobic digestion begins with the waste being fed at regular intervals into an anaerobic digester. ZooShare Biogas Executive Director Daniel Bida likens the anaerobic digester to a big concrete stomach, wherein the organic waste is heated to 38 degrees Celsius and continuously mixed. About sixty days into this process, the waste is transformed into biogas (which consists of 65% methane and 35% carbon dioxide gas) and digestate (fertilizer). The resulting biogas can be used to create electricity, piped into the natural gas grid, or converted into vehicle fuel, and the fertilizer is suitable for farms or backyard gardens.
Biogas has a number of benefits:
It can generate electricity for twenty-four hours a day and for seven days a week.
It reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
It diverts waste from landfills.
It can be produced from any organic waste source.
The end product is a nutrient-rich, odour-free fertilizer.
Construction of the Toronto Zoo biogas plant is slated for July of 2014, which could make the plant operational by December of 2014. The plant will consist of input and output tanks, an engine room and a classroom. All in all, it will occupy one and a half acres of the zoo’s land.
Although the construction cost is estimated at $5.4 million, the benefits of the biogas plant will be worth the cost. The 500-kilowatt plant will provide enough electricity to power over 250 households. In addition, it will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 12,000 tonnes (the equivalent of removing 2,100 cars off the road).
To learn more about the ZooShare Biogas Co-operative, click here.
To read The Toronto Observer article on the ZooShare Biogas’ Toronto Zoo project, click here.
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