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Knoxville Zoo teams with Wampler's to produce solar power

solar elephants.jpgThe Knoxville Zoo's African elephant habitat now sports a 50 kilowatt solar installation, courtesy of Lenoir City-based Wampler's Farm Sausage and Family Brands International. Above, a time lapse image of the finished solar installation at the Knoxville Zoo's elephant enclosure. Blue Sky Aerial Images, Michael Sexton

The Knoxville Zoo's African elephant habitat now sports a 50-kilowatt solar installation, courtesy of Lenoir City-based Wampler's Farm Sausage and Family Brands International.

The system, constructed by Knoxville company ARiES Energy, will produce energy for the zoo as part of TVA's Green Power Provider Program. The zoo will then receive a credit from KUB on its utility bill each month.

Zoo officials say they also plan to use the system to educate visitors about solar power. Plans include installing a video monitor inside the elephant barn viewing area showing how solar power is created and adding signs throughout the exhibit detailing the environmental and economic impact, said Tina Rolen of the zoo's marketing department.

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solar install.jpg
Wampler's paid for the system and will lease the roof area from the zoo, while retaining ownership of the solar installation -- in return the zoo will sell Wampler/Family Brands products like Elm Hill hot dogs and Cades Cove barbecue on site.

Wampler's is no stranger to the benefits of solar power.  Thanks to multiple solar projects at its facilities, Wampler's will be energy independent in 2013, according to company president and CEO Ted Wampler Jr.

The zoo helped supply some labor and equipment, lowering the cost of the project to "under $3.50 a watt," according to Harvey Abouelata, president of ARiES.  Zoo officials put the system cost at less than $160,000.

"Our partnership with Wampler's Farm Sausage and Elm Hill/Cades Cove brands is an exciting opportunity for us to publically launch our long-term investment in sustainable solutions and to include innovative conservation initiatives as part of our mission," says Lisa New, interim executive director of Knoxville Zoo. 

ARiEs Energy master electrician and NABCEP certified solar installater Brandt Womack works on the new solar panel installation 
at the Knoxville Zoo. Submitted, ARiES Energy
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