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The Detroit Zoo has an ambitious new plan to generate power from animal poop

The Detroit Zoo is full of crap. No, seriously — the animals inside it produce about 400 to 500 tons of manure and other organic waste annually, and every year the zoo spends thousands of dollars to remove it from the premises. Poo removal takes up a sizable chunk of the organization’s operating costs — but the zoo has an awesome new plan to fix that. Instead of moving all that animal waste, the zoo plans to collect the poo and use it to generate power.

As part of a larger plan to become waste-free by 2020, the zoo has embarked on a project to build a massive biodigester — a contraption that uses microorganisms to break down organic material and produce methane-rich gas. The gases produced by the system will be used to power the 18,000-square-foot Ruth Roby Glancy Animal Health Complex. The biodigester will also produce compost for the animal habitats, gardens, and public spaces on the zoo’s 125 acres, saving an estimated $70-$80K in annual energy costs, and another $30-$40K in waste disposal fees.

Construction for the digester system is scheduled to begin in June, and could be completed as early as October. If all goes as planned, the Detroit Zoo will become the first zoo in the U.S. to operate a biodigester — likely making it a role model for other zoos around the country.

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It won’t come cheap though. The zoo estimates that the biodigester project will cost roughly $1.1 million to complete, so in addition to securing a number of renewable energy grants, the zoo has also launched a crowdfunding campaign on Patronicity, where it hopes to raise $55K. Pledge your support and you just might be able to visit the USA’s first poo-powered zoo before the end of 2015.