By Patty Kim, energyNow!
Millions of visitors go to the Cincinnati Zoo every year, but the hottest attraction isn’t the new baby giraffe – it’s a solar panel. More accurately, over 6,000 solar panels installed over the zoo’s parking lot, spanning an area the size of four football fields. The sheer size of the arrays is impressive, but not nearly as impressive as their price tag: absolutely nothing.
The Cincinnati Zoo is the latest solar leasing success story, a program that matches up investors with property owners who want to install solar but may not be able to afford the up-front costs. energyNOW! correspondent Patty Kim visited the zoo and SunRun, a San Francisco-based start-up to learn how solar leasing is generating power for pennies.
While the new solar array has made the Cincinnati Zoo one of America’s greenest, it’s also making a lot of financial sense. The panels produce 1.5 megawatts of electricity, about 20 percent of the zoo’s total energy needs, and on extremely sunny days, the zoo doesn’t draw any power from the grid.
A combination of private investors, federal tax credits, and Ohio’s alternative energy incentives financed the $11 million project. The zoo pays a locked-in rate of about 10 cents per kilowatt hour to the solar panel owners, roughly what it would have paid the local utility. Over time, the zoo could save millions as electricity prices rise.
Solar leasing also works for homeowners who want to use the financing model to put solar panels on their roof for next to nothing. But in order to work for homeowners, the process must be affordable and simple to understand, say executives from SunRun, one of the largest providers of residential solar in the country, with 11,000 participating homeowners.
Ultimately, solar leasing proponents hope that as more and more people see installed solar panels, more people will warm to the idea of putting solar on their own homes.
The full segment is available below: