Where Nature is the Star Attraction

Solar Set to Shine Brightly at Ohio Zoos


Last issue, we featured a story about our latest project—a large, multi-megawatt solar array planned for the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. In a competition with several larger, national solar providers, Third Sun Solar was selected to design, engineer and build the array, with construction planned for 2012.

West Palm Beach Solar Zoo

The announcement by the Zoo of this project drew regional and national publicity—including this feature on EarthTechling.com:

Solar Zoo Battle Looms In Ohio
by Pete Danko, October 2011

Add the Columbus(Ohio) Zoo & Aquarium to the roster of U.S. zoos moving in a green direction. The zoo said it had selected Third Sun Solar, of Athens, Ohio, to install a solar power system on its grounds in 2012.

Details on the size of the planned installation weren’t revealed—and might be awaiting design finalization—but the zoo has big ambitions. It said it hopes to “host one of the largest nonprofit solar energy systems in the nation—perhaps the largest solar zoo installation” in the country.

Columbus would do well to simply build the biggest solar zoo installation in the state of Ohio. Already, the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden boasts a 1.56-megawatt system that covers 800 of its 1,000 parking spaces—amounting to about 4 acres of total coverage. The combined output of the Cincinnati system, inaugurated earlier this year, was expected to provide about 20 percent of the zoo’s power needs.

In Columbus, the zoo said its system will have two functions, serving as an “on-site power plant” while also offering “an important educational feature and a very visible icon of sustainability for the Zoo and its partners.”

Naturally, we see it less as a “battle” and more as a positive trend. The move toward solar power among Ohio zoos is being matched in Texas, Florida, Colorado and elsewhere. Many zoos and aquariums are incorporating renewable energy and sustainable practices into their mission as well as their daily activities. Along with educating the public about animals and habitat, zoos are now serving an educational role in clean energy, sustainable living, conservation, and Earth-friendly practices—a “battle” we all need to win.

Third Sun Solar Founder and President Geoff Greenfield is enthusiastic about the importance of this project in demonstrating the progress that Ohio has made in adding solar to the state’s energy mix. “We are excited to team up with the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium to bring the power of the sun to this world-class institution. Ten years ago, the Zoo hired Third Sun Solar to install a twenty-panel demonstration project; today we are developing a project that will put thousands of panels in a location that receives 2.3 million visitors annually.”