Flower power to generate energy at Detroit Zoo

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The Detroit Zoo has installed a 16-by-16-foot flower-shaped solar energy system in another move toward environmental sustainability.

The all-in-one ground-mounted smartflower, the Detroit Zoological Society announced, can generate 40 percent more energy than a traditional solar panel system, and it cleans itself twice a day from dust, snow and other particles.

The zoo also recently built manure-generated power facility to produce energy for its animal health complex.

 

“As we continue on our green journey, we see ourselves as a laboratory for sustainable innovation,” said Ron Kagan executive director and CEO, in a news release.

“This unique solar-powered system is another ‘first’ for us and an example of something folks can consider doing at home to help reduce their ecological footprint.”

It’s the first system of its kind to be installed in Michigan, as well as the first at any zoo in the country, according to the zoo.

The smartflower was developed in Austria, based on the way “a sunflower follows the sun.” The 12 solar petals trail the sun through a GPS-based dual-axis tracker.

“When the sun rises in the morning, the system unfolds and begins to rotate, producing energy by setting its petals at a 90-degree angle,” according to the zoo, and when the sun sets, the petals close.

The smartflower is in the garden east of the Carousel and will debut at 3 p.m. on Saturday. Each year, the new system is expected to generate more than 4,000 kilowatts of electricity, which is enough to power the ride, among other areas of the zoo.