Zoos have a natural inclination toward sustainability and the Milwaukee County Zoo is no exception. The recent announcement about the zoo’s latest farm exhibits came with a reminder about some of the efforts it has made in recent years to be cleaner and greener.
The zoo’s main entrance was just redeveloped for the its new Wisconsin farm exhibit. But almost two years ago, the zoo added solar panels to the main entrance. “Those solar PV panels produce enough energy to offset what we use to power our electric tow engines,” said zoo director Chuck Wikenhauser.
They’ve produced about 30 megawatt hours of energy in their life at the zoo – enough to power two stadiums for a day, he said.
Almost two years ago, administrators looked into the best option for getting people around the zoo easily and efficiently without using a lot of fuel. “Certainly, one of the main tenets of the zoo is conservation,” Wickenhauser said.
Zoos around the country have been incorporating solar power into their operations.
The zoo purchased three Taylor-Dunn electric towing engines – the Tiger model. “Appropriately named,” Wikenhauser said.
Each one pulls three carts that hold 15 people each. They make laps around the zoo hauling up to 45 people at a time and they work throughout the day on a single charge. “The range is about 30 miles,” Wikenhauser said. “I know we probably don’t drive them that far.”
A round-trip at the zoo is about two miles, he said.
While the solar array at the zoo’s main entrance powers the electric trolleys and is, by far, the zoo’s largest solar power supply, it’s not Milwaukee zoo’s only solar. “We have another array in the center of the zoo,” Wikenhauser said. “It’s more of a demonstration project.”
The array looks like a large flower and is connected to a computer and TV screens around the zoo that display how much electricity it’s generating and what it could power with the energy it produces. He can also pull up information about the zoo’s primary array for students. “That education piece was very important,” Wikenhauser said.