For many Australians, a trip to the zoo is often our first exposure to the vast array of animal species that share our planet.
But these days zoo visitors may like to keep an eye out for a new attraction – solar panels! It’s a little known fact that many Aussie zoos are leaders in renewable energy.Australian zoos (and aquariums) have collectively installed around 1.6MW of solar power - that’s more than Aussie households added to their rooftops in 2017.
Here are a few of them!
Australia Zoo - 648kW
Australia Zoo on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast has leapt to the top of the solar zoo rankings installing 648kW of solar panels on top of its “Crocoseum” to power the zoo’s operations.That’s a lot of solar. As the late Steve Irwin (and Australia Zoo founder) would say - “Crikey, mate!"
Perth Zoo - 237kW
Perth Zoo boasts the largest solar panel array in Perth at 237kW – that’s 755 solar panels! The solar panels are installed across numerous zoo buildings including the elephant barn, the reptiles building, conference centre, administration buildings and a spectacular solar pergola (pictured) providing up to 30% of the zoo’s energy needs - we'd say that's up to the tusk!
Reef HQ - 206kW
Townsville’s Reef HQ has combined a shimmering 206kW roof top solar system with energy efficiency measures - quite the reefurbishment! The measures are designed to both cut costs of running the aquarium and to lead the way in tackling climate change to protect corals along the Great Barrier Reef.
Zoos Victoria - 188kW
Zoos Victoria's claim to climate fame is having the first zoos (Melbourne, Healesville and Werribee) in the world certified as carbon neutral – achieved by purchasing carbon offsets from projects that protect habitat and avoid deforestation. Zoos Victoria has also installed an astonishing 188kW of solar PV panels, mainly at Melbourne Zoo (pictured) and is investigating further renewable energy options.Zoos Victoria is also a partner in the renewable energy joint purchasing project, the “Melbourne Renewable Energy Project”. The joint project led by Melbourne City Council and involving 14 major public and private organisations has contracted wind power from the Crowlands Wind Farm site, near Ararat in regional Victoria. The 80MW project is now under construction.
Zoos SA - 183kW
Monarto Zoo in South Australia has three solar trackers, which follow the direction of sunlight to maximise the energy produced. Each tracker comprises 60 solar panels totalling 33kW. Adelaide Zoo, Monarto’s city cousin, has installed a total of 150kW in solar panels, including a system atop its famous panda exhibit, home to Wang Wang (pictured) and Funi. Now that's a zoo with some true renewable bearnifits!
Taronga Western Plains Zoo - 109kW
In December 2016, Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo installed a 99kW solar system on its Savannah Visitor Plaza, adding to the existing 10kW of solar panels on the roof of its Midway Kiosk (near the zoo’s new elephant facility). While you’re there admiring the panels, don’t forget to check out the Przewalski’s Horse and Black Rhinoceros.
Solar zoos around the world
Zoos around the world are taking up the renewable energy challenge too!
For example, in the United States:
- Detroit Zoo purchases 100% wind energy for all of its operations
- Cincinnati Zoo has its own wind turbine along with extensive solar panels
- Toledo Zoo has a 98kW solar walk
- Fort Worth Zoo in Texas installed a 47.5kW solar power system funded through the “Sun Club”, a program where Texas power customers pay an additional $5 on their electricity bill to support community solar installations.
The United Kingdom’s Hamerton Park Zoo (pictured) takes out the title for Europe’s greenest zoo with wind turbines, solar arrays and biomass boilers.
- Australia Zoo: Australia Zoo
- Perth Zoo: Perth Zoo
- Reef HQ: Flickr user loloieg
- Zoos Victoria: Zoos Victoria
- Zoos SA: Zen Energy
- Adelaide: Flickr user Brad licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0
- Taronga: Taronga Western Plains Zoo
- Hamerton: Hamerton Park Zoo: Flickr user NTG
To find out more about how the tourism industry is leading the way in tackling climate change, check out our report, 'Icons at Risk: Climate Change Threatening Australian Tourism'.