Cincinnati Zoo's Urban Solar Array

solar array at Cincinnati Zoo
The solar array at the Cincinnati Zoo will produce more than 1.5 megawatts of renewable energy.
Melink Corporation

This Spring, Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden visitors will be greeted by 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 nearly 800 of the 1,000 spots available at the Zoo’s main entrance. Construction has begun and is slated to be completed by the end of April 2011.

The solar panels will convert sunlight into clean energy and provide approximately 20% of the Zoo’s energy needs. (That’s enough to generate electricity to power 200 homes each year, enough energy to power 55,000 energy efficient CFL bulbs for a year, and even enough to power your Wii for 95 million hours.) Additionally, there will be many days, sunny and cool, when the Zoo will be completely off the grid and sending power back to the utility.

Melink Corporation, the developer, designer, owner, and operator of the multi-million dollar project was supported by PNC Bank, Uptown Consortium, National Development Council and FirstEnergy Solutions. Over the life of the project the Zoo will realize millions of dollars in savings in electric bills.

“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 the Cincinnati Zoo. “No where else has an array of this magnitude been placed in such an urban environment, allowing our visitors, and the general public at large, to be able to see first hand what solar photovoltaic energy is all about. The education potential of this advanced energy project is off the charts.”

“As the greenest Zoo in America, there is no better place to showcase this technology and to help the public understand that not only is this technology the right thing to do for our energy future, but it makes absolute financial sense as well,” said Thane Maynard, Executive Director of the Cincinnati Zoo.

“Melink is proud to serve as the developer for this high profile solar energy installation,” said Steve Melink, President of Melink Corporation. “It will help put Cincinnati on the map as a national leader in the adoption and promotion of clean energy.”

All the major components of the solar canopy will be manufactured either locally, or in other locations within the United States to help promote economic growth. 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 the Zoo’s 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 benefits of solar energy in general.

Read Large-Scale Solar Power Systems: Construction and Economics from Amazon.

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