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Toledo Zoo Solar Project
For the kid in all of us, a trip to the zoo is one of those times where we can be who we really want to be. In that vein, the Toledo Zoo knew that when it wanted to install a new solar panel project, they needed to find the sweet spot where form meets function – and it’s right up the alley of the best electrical team in America.

Back with the story is ETV’s Dominic Giarratano. Hi Dom – what was your favorite animal? Did you see the monkeys?

Dominic Giarratano: Nope, didn’t get to see any monkeys, but I did see what could pass for a snake, the solar panels snaked around the parking lot, and I have to tell you, the work done by Romanoff electric ventures into the realm of the artistic – each part of the install blending seamlessly into the surrounding creative spaces, and each one is it’s one work of art.

Northwestern Ohio might not be what you think of as the best candidate for a solar installation. But the Toledo Zoo, one of the best zoos in America, wouldn’t take that for an answer.

When they were ready for their own solar installation, they tasked NECA contractor Romanoff Electric with figuring it out. And Romanoff delivered.

One of the most unique projects you’ll see around, the Toledo Zoo Solar Panel project was a marvel of achievement.

Bob Hittle, field service technician, Romanoff Electric
“We’ve installed 1400 individual panels out here. We’ve got 13 here, they range anywhere from 5,000 watts to 8,000 watts depending on how many of these panels we’ve put in a circuit.”

John Retzke, President, Romanoff Electric
“We do a lot of work with the Toledo Zoo and they’re very happy to have us.”

Jerry Heminger, VP Energy Solutions and Alternative Energy, Romanoff Electric
“We had a single inverter concept in the center of the array. We’ve figured out early on that the decibel level on the inverter affected animals. It was right in their noise or hearing range. So we ended up having to go to several small inverters, which worked well anyway because we have multiple angles on the array.”

Problems arise, and the brainpower of NECA contractors solves them.

Like these globes – they cast a shadow on the panels, which would cause them to burn out. So what did Romanoff do? Pioneer a new technique with the help of an outside company to turn off the panels that are being shaded.

But the biggest problem remains – how do you use solar panels when there’s not much sun to be had? Romanoff did some research and came up with the brightest solution yet.

Jerry Heminger, VP Energy Solutions and Alternative Energy, Romanoff Electric
“Here in Ohio, we live in an area of a lot of diffuse light, and when I say diffuse light, we have a lot of clouds that roll over our area and fracture the light as it comes through the sky. In the southwest, you have pretty much direct sunlight. So here in Ohio, because of that, thin film panels tend to work a little bit better than a crystalline panel.”

“Let’s say we have a light up here. My line of sight, I’m looking at that light, but I can’t see any of the lights around me. That would be a good description of a crystalline panel, I only see that light ahead of me. A thin film panel, imagine you’ve got eyes here and in the back of my head. I’ve got eyes all around me, so I’m seeing more light from the sky. So that enables me to turn on sooner. I can turn on early in the morning and stay on until late in the evening.”

So even though Toledo might get a little, well, gloomy every once in a while, these panels keep on generating electricity.

Bob Hittle, field service technician, Romanoff Electric
“There is a big misconception that you need to be out west, down south or in the southeastern or southwestern states to produce solar energy in a productive way that’s cost effective. That’s not true anymore. Technology has come along so far that here in northwest Ohio, these produce. Even with snow on them, they’ll produce a portion of the power that’s rated.”

Saving an owner money on the front end by problem solving and on the back end by reducing power costs. Just another day in the life of a NECA Contractor and their IBEW workforce.

Bob Hittle, field service technician, Romanoff Electric
“The outcome is exactly what the customer wanted – something that shows what we’re doing here in the US, getting off foreign oil. We’re producing a nice looking package for the customers to enjoy. And everyone was really happy, we’re very proud of what we’ve put in here. The cost of the panel, the inverters, the competition has brought all that pricing down. I’m waiting for the day when I can put some in my back yard. Because I think they’ll be a huge help.”

Jerry Heminger, VP Energy Solutions and Alternative Energy, Romanoff Electric
“We’ve helped bring down the cost of solar by innovative installations, such as the zoo or other installations. But more importantly, and the zoo is a fine example of this, we’ve learned how to install solar cost-effectively in an urban environment, where power is being used.”

Its beauty reaches far beyond the aesthetic considerations – each panel means cost savings to the owner. That, in and of itself, is beautiful.

The work done by Romanoff and IBEW Local 8 shows us all that ‘green’ work doesn’t have to be ugly, or simply functional. It can be a living, breathing installation that’s as functional as it is attractive and it can appeal to you no matter what species you are.