April 2008 Issue
Here's the Scoop
The Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden will soon be putting its own spin on the “Waste not, want not” proverb. A new two-year feasibility study — dubbed Poop Power by staffers – will explore the pros and cons of converting organic waste from pachyderms into energy.
Although there are no specific numbers on how much the project — co-funded by Duke Energy and the Ohio Department of Energy — will save the zoo in energy costs, Mark Fisher, the zoo’s senior director of facilities and planning, projects it could be as much as tens of thousands of dollars annually at the outset.
“We have four Asian elephants weighing more than 37,000 pounds that crank out 800 to 1,000 pounds of waste a day,” Fisher says. “Right now, we either throw it away or use it as compost. But imagine the possibilities if we can take this biomass and convert it into enough kilowatts to heat the elephant and zoo houses on a daily basis.”
Elephants aren’t the only mammals contributing to the cause during the study. Rhino, giraffe and tiger output will be added to the mix, as will the food waste left behind by visitors and grass clippings from the zoo’s horticultural department.
“The kind of biomass technology we want to do here is nothing new,” Fisher says. “Factory farms that produce thousands of tons of manure a day rely on it to keep creeks and streams clean. After our study is complete and if the results are deemed possible, we’ll design and build a small unit for our much-smaller operation.” One, Fisher adds, that will serve as a teaching tool to the million or so visitors who pass through the gate each year.
“We want them to realize that conservation is just the right thing to do,” he says. “It’s not only important to Ohio and the United States. It’s important for the planet.”