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San Diego Zoo Parking Lot Goes Solar

A rendering of the solar panels planned for the San Diego Zoo parking lot.
Smart City San Diego
A rendering of the solar panels planned for the San Diego Zoo parking lot.
San Diego Zoo Parking Lot Goes Solar
The San Diego Zoo will get a system of solar panels that will provide energy for five vehicle charging stations. It will also provide shade for up to 50 cars in the parking lot.

The San Diego Zoo will install a "photovoltaic canopy" in its parking lot to generate energy and charge electric cars. The canopy is a project of the zoo and Smart City San Diego, a consortium that includes CleanTECH San Diego and SDG&E.

When the canopy's complete, the zoo parking lot will provide five car charging stations and shade for fifty cars. The system will include a total of ten solar canopies, which will feed a 100-kilowatt battery storage system.

When the batteries are full, excess energy will redirected, and it will be enough to power 59 homes at peak production. The storage batteries will also allow car charging overnight. April Bolduc, with SDG&E, said these charging stations will be unique.

"It's one of the first types of projects like this, where you have solar going directly to electric vehicles," she said.

But what will it look like when it's done?

"It almost looks like, if you will, a solar tree," said Bolduc. "You'll have solar panels on the top, and a charging station at the base."

Construction of the zoo charging system has already begun, and it's expected to be finished in November. The 10 canopies will be located in the southeastern section of the parking lot.

The car charging stations at the zoo is being paid for through federal stimulus money from the Department of Energy, and it's part of what's called the EV Project, which will eventually install 1,000 car charging stations in San Diego County.

The EV Project has fallen at least a year behind schedule, due to difficulties locating charging stations in parts of the city where parking is scarce. Many businesses have refused to give up their parking spaces in order to make room for electric chargers.