The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden

1.56 MW Solar Canopy

System Size: 1.56 MW

Cincinnati, Ohio

Annual Output (AC)
1,680,261 kWh

Module Technology
Crystalline Silicon

2 (500 kW)
1 (250 kW)
1 (100 kW)


The Melink Corporation developed a solar photovoltaic (PV) canopy for the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden to help the zoo reduce operational costs and its reliance on non-clean energy sources. Construction started in December 2010, and the system was commissioned in April 2011.

About the Project

Located above the zoo’s main parking lot on Vine Street in Cincinnati, Ohio, the canopy consists of nearly 6,400 solar PV modules, which contribute to approximately 20% of the zoo’s total power needs. At 1.56 megawatts, it is the largest urban, publicly accessible, educational solar PV system in the nation.

In fact, the Cincinnati Zoo’s solar canopy project reduces 1,775 tons of C02 emissions annually by replacing coal-fired power with clean solar energy. Plus, the canopy also reduces the heat-island effect the open asphalt parking lot has on the surrounding area. As “The Greenest Zoo in America,” this was exceptionally important to zoo. (Check out the zoo’s other energy-saving project within its food operations.)

As far as savings, the zoo will experience $1.3M in savings over the 30-year-life of the PV assets. This helps ensurs the Cincinnati Zoo remains a thriving part of the community, continuing to provide more than 1,600 local jobs and 3,000 reduced admissions annually to low-income children.

Community Benefits

Overall, the solar canopy project supports the revitalization plans of the Zoo’s Uptown neighborhood, contributing to the area’s aesthetics and creating opportunities for the community.

First, project planners considered how the overall structure fit with the Uptown neighborhood’s look and feel. Typically, this area of Cincinnati appeals to residents who are environmentally-aware and have an interest in renovated structures. For instance, residents usually walk or bike to work or school, as well as update older homes with greener building choices.

Thus, the zoo’s solar canopy contributes to the modernization of the Uptown area, keeping a low profile so as not to overwhelm the current structures, all while providing green energy for the zoo.

Additionally, as part of the revitalization effort, the Cincinnati Zoo’s solar project created scholarship and job opportunities for the community. Since 2011, Melink has granted multiple scholarships for Uptown residents to attend the Photovoltaic Installer Training Program offered through Cincinnati State. Not only did scholarship recipients gain valuable classroom experience on how to install PV systems, but they were given an opportunity to work on the zoo’s solar canopy and other local solar PV projects.

Solar Education

Working with the zoo’s education staff, Melink designed an interactive educational kiosk that overlooks the solar canopy, as well as signage throughout the park that illustrates the technology and the benefits associated with the project.

The kiosk, along with the solar canopy itself, serves as inspiration and motivation for the 1.3 million annual visitors to the Cincinnati Zoo to make a change in their daily energy routine.