Sept. 21, 2015
Texas Discovery Gardens at Fair Park flipped the switch last week on a new 410-square-foot solar array atop a cedar pagoda, home to the garden’s new Natural Learning Center.
According to Texas Discovery Garden’s executive director Dick Davis, the 500-square-foot Natural Learning Center's multi-purpose building is a model of sustainability having been constructed using repurposed material.
Davis said the Learning Center was made from reclaimed items such as "structural beams and cedar siding, all coming from diverse and unique sources – an old West Texas ranch house, a cowboy bunkhouse on the Red River and the now-demolished train depot in Bowie, Texas, which was built in 1992. Greenhouse shed windows were salvaged from a Mansion on a Florida beach.”
The Center, which was made possible by a $50,000 grant from the Green Mountain Energy Sun Club, will be used as a classroom, native Texas snake exhibit and as greenhouse sheds for tropical plants used in the Butterfly House.
“Within our mission of organic, water-wise, sustainable growth it seemed only logical to power a reclaimed structure with solar energy,” Davis said of the reason Texas Discovery Gardens decided to power the Learning Center with solar panels.
Fortunately, the folks at Green Mountain’s Sun Club saw the project as a viable one too.
“The Green Mountain Energy Sun Club is an organization started by Green Mountain Energy Company, the nation’s longest serving renewable energy retailer, that evaluates hundreds of applications from non-profits every year for sustainability donations,” said Tony Napolillo, Green Mountain’s Sun Club Program Manager. “Texas Discovery Gardens’ commitment to the Dallas community through the preservation of this urban garden oasis, and their commitment to maintaining the space using sustainable methods, made them an obvious fit for a donation.”
Napolillo said too that in addition to the Texas Discovery Garden’s existing water conservation efforts, they were also excited to help enhance the gardens’ sustainability efforts with this new and very visible solar installation so that members of the community can visit the gardens and explore a solar-powered, organic paradise.
As for how much power will be offset for the Learning Center by the solar panels, Napolillo said the solar array will power the garden’s Natural Learning Center and is estimated to produce 8,400 kilowatt-hours annually. It will save Texas Discovery Gardens more than 252,000 kilowatt-hours over the panels’ 30-year life span.
“The new solar array also enhances the non-profit’s initiatives to preserve the environment and protect Texas wildlife,” he said.
Made available once a year, Green Mountains Sun Club program has helped multiple DFW nonprofits from the program over the past few years. In fact, Green Mountain was the first retailer dedicated to cleaner energy in Texas when the market opened to competition in 2002. The Sun Club was founded that same year to bring solar power to non-profits. Since then Napolillo said they have donated more than 80 solar and sustainability projects worth more than $3.8 million to non-profits across the state and in additional markets in the Northeast.
“In the Dallas-Fort Worth area alone, we’ve donated more than $740,000 in solar projects,” he said. “Notable Sun Club solar projects in the area include Dallas Academy, Perot Museum of Science and Nature, the Dallas Arboretum & Botanical Gardens, and most recently, Fort Worth Bike Sharing. The Sun Club is always looking for more non-profits to support with solar and new types of sustainability projects.”