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Dallas Zoo to transform poop into power: New biogas facility will transform dung into energy

Nov 2, 2007 - McClatchy-Tribune Business News - Holly Yan - The Dallas Morning News

The Dallas Zoo could someday be powered in part by Jenny and Keke's elephant poop.

Their dung -- which totals more than 300 pounds a day -- will be used to help create heating, water and electric power at the zoo through a new biogas facility, officials said.

"When you're in the zoo business, poo and pee is our bread and butter," said Chuck Siegel, the zoo's deputy director for animal management. "It's really exciting that rather than taking this waste material and just adding to a landfill or throwing it out, we're able to use it for something positive. The zoo first and foremost sees itself as not only as a fun place for families, but as a conservation organization."

It's not clear when the biogas facility will become operational. Zoo officials hope that the project's design phase will be complete next year.

Talks about the first phase of a waste-to-energy project between the city of Dallas and Dallas-based BDS Technologies started more than a year ago. Officials discussed the virtues of the zoo animals' waste.

"Do we have enough waste? Is it good enough waste?" said Doug Dykman, the zoo's deputy director for operations.

Mr. Dykman said that the waste -- including animal droppings and trash -- could help power several buildings at the zoo and provide irrigation to the landscaping.

The Environmental Protection Agency awarded $10,000 to the Dallas Zoo's waste-to-energy project. The entire project could cost $750,000 to $1 million. But considering how much the zoo will save by not hauling six tons of daily waste to a landfill and by using in-house power, the project could pay for itself within 10 years, Mr. Dykman said. He said he hopes private support will also help pay for the project.

"Gasification from waste products is not new. We're talking about taking that technology and using it on a small scale," Mr. Dykman said.

Mr. Siegel added that zoo officials will not be feeding the animals more in an attempt to produce more power.