IMAGE: ELEPHANT
Cathy Burkey  /  Dallas Zoo
Keke, one of the elephants at the Dallas Zoo, could soon be contributing to carbon-free electricity via her waste.
updated 11/2/2007 11:32:45 AM ET 2007-11-02T15:32:45

Dallas Zoo officials are moving forward with a plan to turn animal droppings, cardboard and tree limbs into power for several buildings and irrigation for the zoo's landscaping.

The waste, including Jenny and Keke's elephant poop, will go into a biogas generator. The gas that is created will help with heating, water and electric power.

"When you're in the zoo business, poo and pee is our bread and butter," Chuck Siegel, the zoo's deputy director for animal management, said in Thursday's online edition of The Dallas Morning News.

"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."

Talks with BDS Technologies about the first phase of the project began more than a year ago. Zoo officials hope that the design phase is complete next year.

The project could cost up to $1 million. But Doug Dykman, the zoo's deputy director of operations, said it should pay for itself within 10 years with the savings on trips to the landfill and in-house power.

The biogas generator would add oxygen to the waste and heat it to very high temperatures to create the gas.

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

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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