Vacant land along the Anthony Wayne Trail could soon transform into a significant source of the Toledo Zoo’s energy and bolster the zoo’s green credentials.
A group of private investors, led by Rudolph/Libbe, plans to build a 2-megawatt solar array at 671 Spencer St., a 22-acre vacant plot northeast of the zoo.
The group, a limited liability company called Anthony Wayne Solar Number 1, will sell energy generated by the array to the zoo.
Lowell Metzger, a contracts manager for Rudolph/Libbe, said the array, which will include about 25,000 solar panels, is projected to provide the zoo with about 30 percent of its energy.
“It’s a great use for the property,” Mr. Metzger said.
The array is still in its design phase, and the zoo is negotiating a contract with the company, but Mr. Metzger says the hope is to begin construction in late August, finish in December, and begin providing power in 2014.
Structured as a power purchase agreement, Rudolph/Libbe and other investors will pay for the construction and own the array, while the zoo then buys the energy generated.
Mr. Metzger said no public funds will be used for the array.
The project has several benefits for the zoo. There will be no upfront cost for the zoo, and energy provided from the array might be over the long run cheaper, since the zoo will contract for a set rate that won’t change even if energy prices increase. The set rate also provides financial stability, giving the zoo a sense of future costs.
Zoo spokesman Andi Norman said conservation is an integral part of the zoo’s mission, and shifting toward more renewable energy helps fulfill that goal. The zoo already has a wind turbine, geothermal wells to heat and cool the aquarium, and more than 1,400 solar panels in its SolarWalk.
The new array would be by far the largest source of renewable energy for the zoo, Ms. Norman said.
The array will help aesthetically, sprucing up an eyesore that mars the approach to the zoo.
The site was once home to a Haughton Elevator Co. factory, but hasn’t been used since the early 1990s and, according to Mr. Metzger, has been in receivership.
It stretches between Spencer Street and the Anthony Wayne Trail, Prouty Avenue to the north, and an industrial site to the south.
And the prominent location of the array should raise awareness for renewable energy, Ms. Norman said.
“It’s a conservation component, it’s cost savings, it helps the environment, and hopefully it brings awareness to the visitors we get each year,” she said.
The solar array will be on 15 acres of the 22-acre site.
Mr. Lowell wouldn’t say who is in the group of investors behind the project other than Rudolph/Libbe, and he wouldn’t say how much the projected cost of construction and installation would be.
He said construction of the array will employ about 60 people, and Rudolph/Libbe will use local union workers.
Rudolph/Libbe and its sister company, GEM Inc., plan to pursue similar power purchase agreements in both the Midwest and Northeast.
Contact Nolan Rosenkrans at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or 419-724-6086, or on Twitter @NolanRosenkrans.
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