Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo Explores Solar Power

Thursday, Jan 7, 2010  |  Updated 3:18 PM PDT
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Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo Explores Solar Power

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TAMPA, Florida, August 6, 2008 (ENS) - Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo is planning to install a solar system that can generate enough clean energy to power the zoo's Skyfari sky ride and will be connected to the electric grid through the zoo's main power system.

The zoo will partner with Tampa Electric and the University of South Florida's Power Center for Utility Explorations to develop, design and test the 15-kilowatt solar photovoltaic system.

The project, which includes solar panels and an inverter, as well as educational displays that will be installed at the sky ride entrance, will cost approximately $575,000. It will be funded in part by a grant from the Florida High Tech Corridor.

The interactive demonstration project will allow more than one million annual zoo visitors to find out more about solar power and encourage its use.

"All of the zoo's exhibits and programs are designed to engage and inspire visitors to treasure the natural world and act wisely on its behalf," said Lex Salisbury, the zoo's president and chief executive.

"This partnership offers a great opportunity for the zoo to lead by example," Salisbury said. "By developing and testing a renewable solar energy system, we hope to reduce the impact on the environment by conserving conventional power."

"Our project seeks to deliver electric power that is not only reliable, but also compatible with a natural environment, in harmony with people and animals," said Alex Domijan, professor in the USF College of Engineering and director of the Power Center for Utility Explorations.

The partners will also examine ways to strengthen the electric grid to handle the reverse flow of electricity as a result of what could be a significant increase in renewable generation from larger loads or from a number of smaller systems.

These additional loads from individual or business renewable energy sources have the potential to affect the reliability of electric service for neighboring customers.

Domijan explained, "Although the electricity grid has been designed for a one-way transfer of power from central station generators to consumers, with the distributed generation system being developed at the zoo using on-site renewable energy sources, such as photovoltaics, the grid's controls can be adapted for reverse power flows."

In Tampa, an increasing number of electricity customers are becoming interested in generating their own power from renewable resources such as the Sun.

In 2008, Tampa Electric customers added more than 110 kilowatts of solar energy to their homes and businesses.

"Tampa Electric is pleased to partner with USF and Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo to study and encourage the use of solar power in our communities," said Tampa Electric President Chuck Black. "One of our company's strategic goals is to engage the community while dramatically improving Tampa Electric's environmental profile."

Black said the company policy is consistent with Florida Governor Charlie Crist's policy of developing more renewable energy resources in Florida.

The zoo solar project will allow Tampa Electric and the Power Center for Utility Explorations to train a new high-tech work force in power engineering, the partners said in a statement Monday.

They also view the project as a public education opportunity, saying that the climate change issues that fit within the project framework will be showcased at the zoo for all to experience.

Recognized as the #1 zoo in the United States by "Child" magazine, the 60 acre Lowry Park Zoo displays 2,200 animals in natural habitats, and features water play areas, rides and educational shows.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2008. All rights reserved.

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