Seeing Green

The Cincinnati Park Board decided the best way to encourage people to become better stewards of the environment was to adopt a green piece of mind for the park system. And, it didn’t hurt that the mayor, Mark Mallory, announced a “Green Agenda” in the spring of 2006.

That year, the park’s series of Green Initiative Pilot Projects began transforming the parks into learning laboratories. Beyond supporting public education, one of the goals for the green initiatives was to assess the economic and environmental impacts of new sustainable energy implementation.

The park board had five regional and 70 neighborhood parks and 34 nature preserves to select from, and decided to begin with solar and wind energy at the headquarters located at Eden Park. “Eden Park is the flagship of our green initiatives,” says Julie Horne, chief business officer for the park board. “The solar panels were installed at the end of 2006 during the winter, and went operational in 2007.” The busy park is also home to the Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati Playhouse and the Krohn Conservatory.

Solar Energy

The solar panels were donated by Duke Energy, and the park board also received grants from the State of Ohio. The 10.8-kilowatt (kW) solar array consists of 90 120-watt Evergreen Solar photovoltaic panels, and was installed by ThirdSun Solar and Wind Power, a company based in nearby Athens, Ohio. The array can produce about 1,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity a month.

The ground-mounted solar panels, located on the lawn near the headquarters, are visible and somewhat accessible to the public. The location was selected to provide maximum sun and minimal shade. The only barrier around the panels is a lattice-style fence under the array to prevent access. To make the array more attractive, the area is landscaped with shrubs and annuals. And–incredibly–there have been no problems with vandalism.

The array is connected to three converters needed to change the direct current to alternating current to provide electricity for the headquarters. The solar array provides about 12 percent of the power usage at park headquarters.

Sun And Wind Power

A residential-sized 10-kW wind generator, a Bergey WindPower Excel-S that’s been in production for over 25 years, was also installed on park grounds. The generator is located on a 120-foot tall tower to take advantage of the faster and more consistent winds.

But before the turbine was installed, the concerns of nearby neighbors were considered. “The people who live across the street were worried about the turbine being noisy or causing problems,” says Horne. “So, we selected an alternate location along the ridge.”

The solar array and wind generator are “utility grid-tied.” The power generated is delivered to the building, with any excess being fed to the utility grid. “When more electricity is produced than we use, the meter will actually go backward,” says Horne. Combined, the solar and wind power provide about 20 percent of the electricity used at the headquarters.

By connecting the building to the utility grid, the need for a bank of batteries to store the excess energy was eliminated. However, this also means that the system has no battery backup, and if a power outage occurs, the building is out of power and the solar- and wind-energy generators are automatically shut down for safety.

To Tour de Green Initiatives

Eden Park is the kickoff location for the Southwest Ohio Solar Tour, which takes a closer look at green-energy alternatives employed in the area. As part of the American Solar Energy Society’s National Solar Tour, the tours are coordinated by Green Energy Ohio–a statewide nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting environmentally and economically sustainable energy policies and practices.

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