ZooShare Biogas Co-operative Inc. will soon start construction of a 500 kilowatt (kW) facility, the first zoo-based biogas plant in North America. The plant, located across from the Toronto Zoo, will recycle manure from the zoo and local food waste from grocery stores into renewable power for the Ontario grid.
ZooShare is a non-profit renewable energy co-op with more than 500 members, many of whom are also investors in the project.
“This is a significant milestone for this project,” said ZooShare board chair Paul Ungerman. “Our mandate is to demonstrate that waste is a valuable resource and to educate students and the general public about the environmental benefits of biogas. Today marks the beginning of that vision becoming a reality, and we extend our sincerest gratitude to all of our partners and supporters.”
In addition to the 3,000 tonnes of waste from the Toronto Zoo, the plant will also process 14,000 tonnes of inedible food waste from local grocery stores and turn it into power, heat and fertilizer.
“The Toronto Zoo is thrilled to be part of a project that is so highly aligned with our sustainability initiatives and commitments to energy efficient operations,” John Tracogna, CEO of Toronto Zoo, said in the news release. “ZooShare, once operational, will have the ability to reduce greenhouse emissions by the equivalent of 10,000 tonnes of CO2 each year, and will turn what was previously a cost to the zoo into a new source of revenue.”
Ontario currently has a young biogas industry; however, it is expected to play a more significant role to meet Ontario’s Climate Change objectives in the future.
With support from education sponsor Bullfrog Power, ZooShare is also embarking on an educational campaign to raise awareness of biogas and to highlight the significant environmental benefits of biogas technology. An in-classroom workshop, co-designed and delivered by TREC Education, is offered to grade 7 students around the Greater Toronto Area, and ZooShare will begin to offer regular tours of the biogas plant once it is operational later this year.
“This innovative biogas project is a great example of the types of initiatives that need to be developed if we want to mitigate the impacts of climate change. On behalf of our customers, we are proud to be one of the founding investors and the project’s education sponsor,” said Ron Seftel, CEO, Bullfrog Power. “With our education partner, Bullfrog Power, we are committed to being catalysts for the growth of biogas plants – so that none of the energy and nutrients contained in organic waste, are wasted. That all starts with education,” said Daniel Bida, ZooShare’s Executive Director.
Construction on the site will begin June 2016 and is estimated to be operational by December 2016.