UK’s Marwell Zoo to generate bioenergy from animal waste

Marwell Zoo in Hampshire, UK, has become the first of its kind to generate renewable energy using animal waste.

Manure from some of the most endangered species will be used to heat the zoo’s largest buildings using biomass technology.

The Energy for Life initiative saves 220 tonnes of CO2e each year and marks a critical step in the zoo’s goal to become carbon neutral next year.

“Using heat in this way from our own animals is unique in the UK and, as far as we know, across the world,” said Dr Duncan East, head of sustainability at Marwell Zoo.

“There is an urgent need to reduce the burning of fossil fuels and leave these high carbon sources in the ground. We can’t act soon enough to replace the oil-fired heating systems in these buildings.

“Previously, 600 tonnes of animal waste was taken off-site to be composted. This came with a significant carbon transport cost. We came up with the idea of biomass heat generation to reduce our carbon footprint. We would turn a previous waste stream into a valuable resource – achieving cost savings in the process.”

A dedicated team of zookeepers will collect the waste from the animal paddocks and enclosures each morning. A mini refuse truck will then collect the waste and transport it to the Energy Centre. A digger will then transfer the mixture of manure and bedding to a shredder for mixing, before being dried and pressed into briquettes, which are fed into the boiler.

The biomass boiler will produce hot water, which is fed into a 15,000-litre thermal store. It then flows underground to heat the zoo’s tropical house. The exhibit combines the tropical animal habitat with educational exhibits on energy flow, climate change, and powering modern lifestyles.

The next phase of the biomass system is to provide heat to other buildings across the zoo.

“Replacing oil-fired heating systems with heat generated from waste from our own animals will hugely reduce our carbon footprint,” said Dr East. “What better way than to make use of a material which is in abundant and continuous supply.”

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