How the Zoo Went Solar

In December 2012 the St Louis Zoo elected to join the growing ranks of American zoos demonstrating that solar energy is a viable, economic, and easy mechanism to help create a more sustainable world. After publishing a request-for-proposal on 12 December 2012 to install a 31.39 kW solar photovoltaic array atop the Zoo’s South Entrance Safari Gift Shop, St Louis’s StraightUp Solar was competitively selected in April 2013. We proudly donate to many causes and the donation of this $125,000 system is just one of the ways we hope to empower a more sustainable world.

The project immediately poised some unique challenges. It has a strikingly non-standard circular design and more importantly limited space. Surveying the roof was simple but generating the level of power spelled out in the proposal required some of the most advanced solar panels on the market – 96 SunPower 327 Watt Modules in fact. As the region’s only SunPower dealer this is something only StraightUp could provide.

Installation took place from June 10th through July 5th. Ameren finalized the interconnection and on July 31st the Zoo generated 88.32 kWh’s of solar electricity on a partly sunny day. A typical American home consumes 940 kWh per month so this represents almost a tenth of this monthly total. The Zoo placed an interactive information kiosk on the foot bridge leading from the South parking lot to the Entrance of the Zoo and we encourage you to visit and see the solar production in real time. Following the installation the array was formally unveiled to the public on 25 September.

Producing the equivalent energy consumed by 3-5 typical American homes, the Zoo’s Safari Gift Shop solar array is warrantied for 25 years but expected to operate appreciably longer.  In that time it is expected to produce an average of nearly 39 MWhrs of electricity per year, saving the St Louis Zoo over $111,000 in utility costs and offsetting 745 tons of CO2, 2,700 lbs of NOX, and over 6,200 lbs of SO2 air pollution between now and 2038.   Zoo visitors are invited to learn more about practical sustainable actions by personally observing the solar array, learning about sustainable living from a knowledgeable Zoo docent, or visiting the Zoo’s website to monitor the array’s real-time electric output and environmental benefits while learning how they too can behave more sustainably.

To celebrate our accomplishment and to help support both our great Zoo and the incredible potential of solar power, StraightUp Solar is offering a special $250 customer discount plus an additional $250 donation to the Saint Louis Zoo for each new system purchased now through Oct. 31.  To receive these benefits, customers must simply post a photo of themselves standing before the Zoo’s new solar array/kiosk and Zoo sign to both the Saint Louis Zoo and StraightUp Solar Facebook sites.

Dr. Dane Glueck, president and co-owner of StraightUp Solar added, “StraightUp Solar exists for simply one reason—to inspire a solar tribe to create a sustainable world.  When the opportunity arose to install the Zoo’s first solar array, we knew instantly that donating the system was consistent with our company’s CLEARE (Community / Lead / Educate / Advocate / Respect / Excellence) values to not only respect the environment and animal habitat, but also to educate the public that they can make real and meaningful sustainability choices today that will provide energy, environmental and economic security benefits for decades to come.”

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Dane Glueck

Pranav Modak

Josh Hill