Duluth's Lake Superior Zoo has been chosen as the site for northeastern Minnesota's firstRebuild Minnesotarenewable energy demonstration project. It's designed to improve energy and environmental performance at the zoo while demonstrating the benefits to a large, diverse audience. Rebuild Minnesota is a new program through the Minnesota Department of Commerce. Partners in this project include Minnesota Power, City of Duluth's Lake Superior Zoo and Public Works & Utilities, Rebuild Minnesota Institute, Johnson Controls, and LHB Architects and Engineers.

Each component of the project — from a solar water heating system to a micro hydropower plant — is designed to not only solve a current problem but also provide education on renewable energy. The elements being proposed include:

  • Solar hot water and potential space heating for the animal barn;
  • Photovoltaic fueling station for electric vehicles;
  • Geothermal heat exchanger to cool the polar bears and seal pools; and
  • Micro hydro facility to provide power for a building or other site on zoo property.

"Thousands of people will have the opportunity to learn first hand about the value of energy and its relationship to our environment and the creatures that live in it," said Mike Janis, Lake Superior Zoo director. "It is also a great opportunity to showcase the Rebuild Minnesota initiative to zoos all over the world."

Minnesota Power views the Lake Superior Zoo project as the first step toward building a community level infrastructure drawing upon various stakeholders. "It is truly a unique opportunity to educate both children and adults about the benefits of clean, renewable energy," said Pat Mullen, Minnesota Power vice president, distribution operations/customer service. "A successful zoo project will provide Rebuild Minnesota the foundation for applying this collaborative model to cities throughout our service territory."

Total cost of the project is approximately $300,000 with construction to begin this month. Rebuild Minnesota is part of the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE's) Rebuild America program. It is a network of nearly 500 community partnerships made up of local governments, schools, universities, public and private businesses, and housing agencies dedicated to saving energy, improving building performance, reducing air pollution, and enhancing the quality of life through energy efficiency.