Make us your home page
Instagram

Innovative solar array will power Lowry Park Zoo's Treetop ride

TAMPA — The skies were overcast, but officials Monday predicted a sunny future for solar energy at Lowry Park Zoo and beyond.

By December, two sets of solar panels in or near the elephant exhibit are expected to generate 15 kilowatts for the zoo. The $800,000 project is a joint effort of the zoo, Tampa Electric and the University of South Florida.

"My understanding is that this will solar-power the sky rides, so I sure hope it works," Mayor Pam Iorio joked.

Not only will it work, advocates say, but it should help usher in the increased use of solar energy in two ways.

First, it will demonstrate the uses of solar power to the zoo's 1.1 million visitors a year, officials say. That will show the public what steps their communities can take to foster the generation of renewable energy.

"To choose wisely, we need to understand what the alternatives are," Lowry Park Zoo acting director Craig Pugh said.

Also, it will help Tampa Electric and USF's Power Center for Utility Explorations figure out the most efficient ways to integrate electricity generated by small, scattered alternative sources — like the photovoltaic cells destined for the zoo — into the regional power grid.

Such projects are the vanguard of a fundamental transformation of the power system, creating a grid that is flexible, reliable, intelligent and sustainable, said Alexander Domijan, director of the Power Center for Utility Explorations. They also will create jobs and business opportunities, he said.

This is not USF's only venture into developing new power systems. The Florida Energy and Climate Commission picked a collaboration between USF's Power Center and Progress Energy Florida for a three-year, $15 million project to build a "smart grid" serving at least 5,000 customers on the west side of St. Petersburg and St. Pete Beach.

Selected from 140 applicants, the project is expected to channel electricity generated with solar and biodiesel technology into the neighborhoods' power supply. It also seeks to create a more efficient and reliable system that will reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and adapt to changing energy demands.

For the project at the zoo, solar cells will be installed on top of a shade structure where elephants take refuge from the sun, as well as near the shelters at the rear of the elephant exhibit.

On sunny days, they are expected to generate enough electricity to run the zoo's Treetop Skyfari ride. But on days like Monday, when raindrops scattered the giraffes in the exhibit next to the project kickoff, the ride will draw power from the power-plant-driven electric grid.

Richard Danielson can be reached at Danielson@sptimes.com or (813) 269-5311.

Innovative solar array will power Lowry Park Zoo's Treetop ride 04/20/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 21, 2009 12:02am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Pinellas licensing board asks Sen. Jack Latvala for $500,000 loan

    Local Government

    The troubled Pinellas County agency that regulates contractors wants Sen. Jack Latvala to help it get a $500,000 lifeline from the state to stay afloat.

    State Sen . Jack Latvala, R- Clearwater, is being asked to help the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board get $500,000 from the state so it can stay open beyond February.  [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
  2. In advertising, marketing diversity needs a boost in Tampa Bay, nationally

    Business

    TAMPA — Trimeka Benjamin was focused on a career in broadcast journalism when she entered Bethune-Cookman University.

    From left, Swim Digital marketing owner Trimeka Benjamin discusses the broad lack of diversity in advertising and marketing with 22 Squared copywriter Luke Sokolewicz, University of Tampa advertising/PR professor Jennifer Whelihan, Rumbo creative director George Zwierko and Nancy Vaughn of the White Book Agency. The group recently met at The Bunker in Ybor City.
  3. Tampa Club president seeks assessment fee from members

    News

    TAMPA — The president of the Tampa Club said he asked members last month to pay an additional assessment fee to provide "additional revenue." However, Ron Licata said Friday that the downtown business group is not in a dire financial situation.

    Ron Licata, president of the Tampa Club in downtown Tampa. [Tampa Club]
  4. Under Republican health care bill, Florida must make up $7.5 billion

    Markets

    If a Senate bill called the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 becomes law, Florida's government would need to make up about $7.5 billion to maintain its current health care system. The bill, which is one of the Republican Party's long-promised answers to the Affordable Care Act imposes a cap on funding per enrollee …

    Florida would need to cover $7.5 billion to keep its health care program under the Republican-proposed Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017.  [Times file photo]
  5. Amid U.S. real estate buying binge by foreign investors, Florida remains first choice

    Real Estate

    Foreign investment in U.S. residential real estate recently skyrocketed to a new high with nearly half of all foreign sales happening in Florida, California and Texas.

    A National Association of Realtors annual survey found record volume and activity by foreign buyers of U.S. real estate. Florida had the highest foreign investment activity, followed by California and Texas. [National Association of Realtors]