third-sun-solarThe Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is planning a solar carport project that it hopes will provide a third or more of the energy it needs, according to The Columbus Dispatch.

The project is expected to cover about 250,000 square feet and include about 16,000 solar panels, Geoff Greenfield, president of Third Sun Solar of Athens, which will develop the project, told The Dispatch.

It’ll be similar to an $11 million one installed in the parking lot of the Cincinnati Zoo in March. That one has 6,400 solar panels that cover 800 parking spaces.

“If we could impact 33 percent of our power, we think that’s a huge number,” Terri Kepes, vice president of planning and design for the zoo told The Dispatch. “People have a sense that in Ohio this doesn’t really work, but it really does.”

According to The Dispatch, the goal is to break ground in the spring and have the solar array operational by next summer.

Solar carport will provide energy – and shade
The probable site is a grassy overflow parking area on either side of the zoo’s entrance on Powell Road, he said. The panels would be about 10 feet off the ground and affixed to a giant carport, providing not only energy but shade for about 2,000 parking spots.

The zoo aims to produce 5.5 million kilowatt hours of electricity a year. The zoo and its other properties use more than 15 million kilowatt hours a year, spokeswoman Jennifer Wilson told The Dispatch.

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Using green energy isn’t the only goal. The zoo wants to serve as a model for alternative energy use, which is one reason the panels will be built where they’ll be visible to visitors.

Initially, the zoo won’t save money on electricity, but it could save after a few years because the cost of the solar power will stay flat as the cost of conventional electricity likely rises, Greenfield said.

“It’s a hedge against energy inflation,” he told The Dispatch.

A number of other zoos nationwide have installed solar arrays, among them, the Toledo and Cincinnati zoos.

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