A few days before Christmas, the newest additions to the Lowry Park Zoo were finished and unveiled (and I'm not talking about penguins or baby pandas): 65 solar photovoltaic (PV) cells that are attached to the shade structure and night house in the elephant quarters.
This $800,000 project that was funded by TECO (Tampa Electric Co.) and a grant from the Florida High Tech Corridor, was part of a project by Lowry Park Zoo, TECO, and the University of South Florida's Power Center for Utility Explorations to develop, design and test a renewable solar energy system, including electricity grid, at the zoo. Right now, the PV panels create enough energy to power the zoo's Treetop Skyfari sky ride, creating 15 kilowatts of electricity from solar energy.
The next step in this project will be to create an interactive learning center to educate the million guests the zoo welcomes each year about solar power and renewable energy sources. This project, designed in part by students at USF's School of Architecture and Community Design, is set to start in the coming months.