cincinnati-zoo-solarWant to take a trip to the zoo with the family but don’t want your car to fry in the hot summer sun?

Then you might want to take a trip to the Cincinnati Zoo, or, if that’s a little too far away, begin lobbying your local zoo to follow in Cincinnati’s footsteps.

By summer, Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden visitors will be greeted by what zoo officials are calling the largest publicly accessible, urban solar array in the U.S., a 1.56 megawatt system with 6,400 panels installed on a canopy structure over the zoo’s Vine Street Parking Lot. The structure will provide shade for about 800 of the 1,000 spots near the zoo’s main entrance.

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Construction has already begun on the solar project and is slated to be completed by the end of April 2011.

The solar carport will provide approximately 20 percent of the zoo’s energy needs, about the equivalent of powering 200 homes each year. Additionally, on some sunny days, the zoo is expected to produce more electricity than it is using and will send excess electricity back into the grid.

Melink Corporation will design, own and operate the multi-million dollar project. It is also being supported by PNC Bank, Uptown Consortium, National Development Council and FirstEnergy Solutions. Over the life of the project, Cincinnati Zoo officials say they expect to realize millions of dollars in savings on electric bills.

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Zoo go-ers to learn about solar
“We believe that the combination of size and public accessibility, makes this solar array the most impactful array of any in the entire country,” said Mark Fisher, Senior Director of Facilities, Planning, and Sustainability at Cincinnati Zoo. “It will allow our visitors, and the general public, to be able to see, firsthand, what solar photovoltaic energy is all about.”

All the major components of the solar canopy will be manufactured locally or in other locations within the United States. In addition, the project will fund 10 scholarships at Cincinnati State Technical & Community College in their Green Workforce Development Program.

In an effort to continue to educate zoo visitors on going green, the solar array will also include an educational kiosk near the zoo’s Go Green Garden that will allow visitors to learn about the performance of the array and the benefits of solar energy.

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