The zoo has installed 6,400 solar panels, totaling 1.56 MW, over its concrete parking lot. The $11 million array will provide about 20 percent of the zoo’s energy needs, generating enough electricity to power 200 homes a year, and will provide shade for nearly 800 of the 1,000 parking spots available at the zoo’s main entrance.
The zoo said the panels will save it millions of dollars off of its electric bills.
“When we talk about the unknown future of energy policy and energy rates, we can know that 20 percent of our load is locked in and accounted for,” senior director of facilities, planning and sustainability Mark Fisher (pictured) said.
The zoo’s annual electric bill is about $700,000, Cincinnati.com reports.
Melink Corporation developed the installation and will own and operate the panels. The project was supported by PNC Bank, the local non-profit Uptown Consortium, National Development Council and the zoo’s electric utility, FirstEnergy, with funds from federal renewable energy and economic development tax credits.
Melink will sell the electricity for about eight cents a kWh, about what the zoo currently pays FirstEnergy, but the price will be locked in for seven years, Cincinnati.com said.
“Nowhere 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,” Fisher added. “The education potential of this advanced energy project is off the charts.”