Cooperative works to develop biogas power from zoo poo

By Erin Voegele | June 21, 2012

A nonprofit cooperative in Toronto is working to develop a project that would convert zoo manure and other locally-sourced waste biomass materials into renewable electricity. The project is being spearheaded by ZooShare Biogas Cooperative Inc. and aims to develop a 500 kilowatt biogas plant.

According to Erik Lo Forte, the cooperative’s community manager, the intention is to install a complete mix anaerobic digester that can take in both solid and liquid waste. However, he said a specific technology and technology supplier have not yet been selected.

Once operational, the facility will take in approximately 3,000 tons of zoo manure annually. In addition, the site will process about 14,000 tons of biobased waste supplied by locally grocery stores. Lo Forte noted that the food waste will be blended into a liquid slurry by the grocers and delivered to the anaerobic digester.

In addition to producing renewable electricity, Lo Forte said the cooperative will also sell fertilizer as a coproduct. Solid fertilizer could be sold by local garden centers, while liquid fertilizer will be supplied to farmers in the greater Toronto area for use on their fields. The digester will also produce heat and carbon dioxide, which Lo Forte noted would be perfect for use in a greenhouse. In our original proposed plan with the Toronto Zoo we included the opportunity the zoo would have to build a greenhouse that could run over the course of the entire year on heat and carbon dioxide supplied by the anaerobic digester, he continued.

The facility will also include a classroom area that can be used to educate students and members of the public about the project and biogas energy. “Our vision is to educate people in Ontario and all over the world about biogas and renewable power,” Lo Forte said.

The cooperative aims to engage residents of Toronto and Ontario in this project. “We are a community power project, so we are raising the majority of the money to build this project through community bonds,” Lo Forte said. “People within Ontario and Toronto can buy our bonds, [which] will help us develop the project.”

The specific timeline for the project will be dependent on the amount of money that is raised, and how quickly we can raise it, Lo Forte continued, noting that the cooperative is estimating the facility will be operational by the fall of 2013. This summer, the cooperative is focused on raising awareness of the project and selling Founders Club bonds. The cooperative is awaiting the completion of power purchase agreements from the Ontario government. Once those contracts are delivered, the group will begin to sell community bonds.