The Toronto Zoo will soon become the first zoo in North America to host a biogas plant.

According to an agreement recently approved by the zoo’s board of management, nonprofit renewable energy cooperative ZooShare Biogas will fully fund, design, develop, construct and operate a 500-kilowatt (kW) scalable biogas plant.

ZooShare Biogas was founded by Angus Power, Koenig & Consultants Inc., ReGenerate Biogas Inc. and Riepma Consultants Inc., and has built five other biogas plants in Ontario.

The Toronto Zoo plant will take in about 12,000 metric tons of food waste annually from a major grocery retailer, as well as manure from the zoo’s animals, to generate electricity, heat and fertilizer. Zoo manure will consist of about 20 percent of the digester feedstock, according to Johanna Hofmann of ZooShare.

“Heat and CO2 will be provided to the zoo for a greenhouse at no cost, should they decide to build one in the future,” Hofmann said. The electricity will be fed into the grid—enough to power about 500 homes—and  ZooShare will also provide the zoo with its annual liquid and solid fertilizer needs.

The facility will be built in the immediate vicinity of the zoo at a site that is currently used as a composting facility, Hofmann said.

The total cost of the project is estimated at $5.4 million, which will be raised from the community through the issuance of community bonds. The project will also benefit from the Ontario Power Authority feed-in tariff program, as biogas plants that produce between 500 kW and 10 megawatts receive 16 cents per kilowatt-hour produced.

Once all necessary permits have been procured and financing secured, construction of the project is expected to begin in early 2012, with a two month start-up and commissioning phase in July and August, Hofmann said. The plant is expected to be in operation by September 2012.

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By Anna Austin | June 21, 2011