Mote electrifies marine operations
A new solar-energy system was just mounted on a rooftop at Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium. Mote is launching its new Sustainable Energy Initiative this month, building upon two generous donations of solar panels from members of the Sarasota community.
One new system of 126 photovoltaic panels, valued at about $115,000, was donated by Willis A. Smith Construction, Inc. and is being installed by RegionSolar, which has worked to obtain a rebate for nearly half the cost through a Florida Power & Light Company program authorized by the state Public Service Commission.
The 2,310-square-foot, 30.2-kilowatt solar-power system, which is being mounted on the southern roof of Mote’s Ann and Alfred Goldstein Marine Mammal Research and Rehabilitation Center, will start capturing solar energy this month to supplement electrical power at Mote’s nationally recognized hospitals for dolphins, small whales and sea turtles.
A second 30.2-kilowatt system provided by local donor and solar-energy supporter Jim Lampl and installed recently will supplement power at Mote Aquaculture Park (MAP) — the Lab’s environmentally responsible fish farm and research facility in eastern Sarasota County. MAP, which operates 17 miles inland using recirculated water, develops sustainable technology for seafood production and for raising marine fish to support wild populations.
Each photovoltaic system could offset about 82,000 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions per year — the equivalent of saving over 4,600 gallons of gas — according to estimates provided by RegionSolar using a carbon calculator program from the Environmental Protection Agency. Each system could save about $6,000 per year in energy costs.
“Solar power is ideal for Mote’s mission of world-class marine science, education and outreach on a nonprofit budget, with a major focus on sustaining natural resources,” said Mote President and CEO Dr. Kumar Mahadevan. “We’re grateful to Willis A. Smith Construction and to Jim Lampl for supporting our vision of energy efficiency for a brighter future.”
“Willis A. Smith Construction is proud to sponsor Mote’s new solar energy system,” said David Sessions, President of Willis A. Smith Construction. “We hope our gift will inspire others to consider contributing to Mote’s sustainable efforts.”
Said the company’s Vice President John LaCivita: “As a leader in sustainable construction and a partner of Mote for 22 years, Willis A. Smith Construction is proud to be a part of Mote’s green movement. This donation will serve to further our conservation knowledge of our natural resources through Mote’s research, for now and for future generations.”
The two new solar arrays are the first to supplement electrical power at Mote facilities, and they build upon the Lab’s many other commitments to saving energy. Solar panels power certain Mote-designed research instruments, such as BreveBusters™ attached to buoys and channel markers to monitor for Florida red tide. Solar heating systems provide more than half the hot water used by staff, volunteers and guests in Mote’s public outreach facility, The Aquarium, the Deep Sea Diner within and a connector building of the Lab, and solar-heated water also supplies facilities for staff and trained volunteers in Mote’s animal hospitals. Mote has also saved energy by using programmable thermostats for more efficient heating and cooling, through a program encouraging staff to turn off lights not in use, by installing energy-efficient light bulbs and through other measures.
The two new photovoltaic systems are an important step forward, but Mote has plenty of room for more. The systems can cover up to 7 percent of energy needs for the building housing Mote’s animal hospitals and up to 5 percent of the needs for two fish-farming buildings served at MAP. Many of Mote’s other buildings have space for solar panels and MAP has room for a system mounted on the ground.
Now, Mote is seeking support for a brand new Sustainable Energy Initiative that will allow for more solar power and other environmentally responsible practices at their Lab, hospital facilities and The Aquarium. Each donation of about $960 covers the purchase and installation of one new solar panel, and if enough support is received, Mote will apply for future rounds of solar rebates.